Everything You Need To Know About Adaptive Authentication

Read on to learn how adaptive authentication and context-based risk assessment can protect user identities and increase login security.

Mar 13, 2023 - 2 min.

For many years, static authentication was regarded as a secure authentication method for which users enter their identity based on predefined criteria such as a password or a PIN. In contrast, adaptive authentication (risk-based authentication) uses context-specific data to determine whether additional verification steps are required to confirm the user's identity.

Whereas static authentication presents hazards for users and providers, adaptive authentication offers greater convenience for the end user. It improves security since it uses real-time conditions to determine the most suitable authentication method.

How does adaptive authentication work?

Adaptive or risk-based authentication is a modern authentication method based on the assessment of risk factors in order to secure access to systems, applications and user data.

Unlike conventional authentication methods for which a user name, a password or a token are the sole security features, risk-based authentication uses large volumes of context information to validate the authenticity of a user.

Risk-based authentication does this by evaluating various factors that could impair the risk of a login, such as the geographical location, the device, behaviour patterns, login behaviour, usage patterns and more. This information is then compared with other factors, such as the company’s security protocol, to determine a risk value.

Risk-based authentication can determine which type of authentication process is suitable for the user based on the risk assessment. If the risk level is assessed as low, a simple authentication based on a username and password, for example, can suffice. In contrast, a higher risk assessment may require an additional authentication method such as biometric authentication. Adaptive authentication uses at least two-factor authentication (2FA) for increased security. In this case, users must provide a second factor, such as a one-time code or a fingerprint, in addition to their user names and passwords when logging in. 

Which industries can benefit from adaptive authentication?

Generally speaking, adaptive authentication is an important part of the security strategy of companies that handle personal data. 

Possible application areas for adaptive authentication include:

  • Financial services: banks and financial institutions must guarantee the security of their customer accounts and transactions. Adaptive authentication makes it possible to detect suspicious activities and request additional authentication to secure access.
  • E-commerce: online retailers frequently have to deal with fraudulent activities. Adaptive authentication can help detect and prevent fraud by analysing the purchaser's behaviour and requesting additional authentication in case of suspicious behaviour.
  • Healthcare: the health services handle large volumes of sensitive data such as medical records and personal identification data. Adaptive authentication can help secure access to this data and guarantee privacy protection.
  • Public authorities: government agencies often possess sensitive data that must be stored securely. Adaptive authentication can help restrict access to this data and ensure that only authorised persons can access it.

One example of adaptive authentication in healthcare

A patient wants to access their doctor's online platform to view their medical records or schedule appointments.

The system considers a range of criteria to determine whether the patient is making the access attempt. These include the IP address, whether the user has previously used the device, the time of access, user behaviour, the type of content requested and many other factors.

Based on these, the system can determine the most suitable authentication methods to enable access to the data without impairing security.

By adding a security level, the system can ensure that the user is who they claim to be, thus ensuring simple and secure access to electronic medical data.

What advantages does risk-based authentication offer?

  • Improved security: with adaptive authentication, companies can increase the security of login processes by identifying risks and initiating measures to reduce hazards. This makes it possible to detect and immediately block suspicious activities, for example.
  • Fewer fraud cases: since adaptive authentication is based on continuous risk assessment, it can uncover and prevent attempted misuse before any damage is caused.
  • Ease of use: adaptive authentication also increases user-friendliness since the login process is simpler and more convenient. This is achieved through the automated adjustment of the risk classification based on factors such as the user’s location, device type, and other context-based factors.
  • Compliance with legal requirements: adaptive authentication also supports compliance requirements by guaranteeing that only authorised users can access secured resources.
  • Cost efficiency: adaptive authentication also saves companies money by reducing the incidence of fraud and the need to operate costly security measures and manual checks.

Decisive Factor for More Security: Multi-Factor Authentication