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November 23, 2005

Cryptomathic: driving customer authentication

Identity and access management technology is often used to control what systems and access rights users have within and between organizations. However, perhaps the most contentious area where identity management has as yet to really make its presence felt, but has the potential to make a real difference, is in the customer-facing areas of online trading and financial services.

By CBR Staff Writer

Lloyds TSB has installed identity/access management solution the Cryptomathic Authenticator.

Take, for example, the banking sector. This industry saw the advantages of customer self-service at an early stage, but has been held back from converting large numbers of customers to the benefits of online account usage due to the threat of identity theft via phishing, pharming, and spyware scams.

In the UK there has, thus far, been a marked reluctance to invest in secure online customer access controls, probably because financial institutions were reluctant to bear the costs, and knew customers could not be forced into paying for this type of additional protection. Fortunately that mindset is about to change. In October, Lloyds TSB announced that it would be trialing a system to manage and authenticate customers using small tokens that generate a new one-shot password every 30 seconds. The trial involves 30,000 Internet banking customers, and, if successful, could almost certainly change the way other UK banks deal with the security and protection of online customers.

Quite naturally, most of the reporting on the Lloyds TSB trial has focused on the front-end token that customers will use to identify themselves, whereas from a technology standpoint, perhaps the most interesting elements of the solution revolve around how the back-end authentication is handled.

Cryptomathic’s Cryptomathic Authenticator is capable of authenticating 500 secure customer transactions per second, and with additional scalability available can scale to much higher volumes. Its authentication role, which can be supported by secure HSM black box technology from nCipher and Eracom, sits alongside the bank’s own user identification technology, and makes the final decision over whether each customer access request will be allowed.

At the same time, Cryptomathic Authenticator provides the ability to protect banking customers from insider attacks. Apart from Lloyds TSB’s choice of token-based authentication, the Cryptomathic Authentication server can work with card and reader, SMS, OTP, and TAN card authentication mechanisms, making it an open approach to customer authentication that may well prove attractive to the wider banking and financial services community.

Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (

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