Re: [Clips] RSA Security Sees Hope in Online Fraud

2005-08-25 Thread Florian Weimer
* R. A. Hettinga quotes:

  Today RSA is perhaps best known for staging a prestigious annual security
  conference and for selling 20 million little devices that display a
  six-digit code computer users must type to gain access to computer
  networks. The code, which changes every minute as determined by an
  RSA-created algorithm, is unique to each SecureID token, making it
  useless to a snoop.

Of course, SecureID tokens do not prevent man-in-the-middle attacks
carried out in real-time.  For example, it's probably not too hard to
write a Browser Helper Object which automatically rewrites financial
transactions submitted using Internet Explorer.

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[Clips] RSA Security Sees Hope in Online Fraud

2005-08-23 Thread R.A. Hettinga

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 http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/08/ap/ap_082205.0.asp

 Technology Review


 TechnologyReview.com

  RSA Security Sees Hope in Online Fraud
  By Brian Bergstein   August 22, 2005




  AP Technology Writer

 BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) -- It was a Friday afternoon for the computer
 encryption folks at RSA Security Inc., and summertime greenery filled the
 countryside view from Art Coviello's office.

 Even so, the RSA chief could have been excused if he didn't seem relaxed.

 RSA had just announced its second straight set of quarterly results that
 didn't dazzle Wall Street analysts, and RSA's stock was flirting with a
 52-week low.

 But Coviello shrugged it off. Analysts, schmanalysts. More importantly, he
 said, lots of factors are about to turn in RSA's favor, namely the need for
 more secure, traceable financial transactions in a world beset by online
 fraud and identity theft.

 The whole thing's moving a lot more slowly than it ought to, Coviello
 said. We've got to keep pounding and pounding until we reach a tipping
 point, and we will take advantage of it.

 The lack of an obsession over quarterly results isn't the only unusual
 thing about RSA, which still bears the marks of an academic past despite
 being a $300 million company with 1,200 employees and customers in
 government, banking and health care.

 RSA is named for three Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors,
 Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Len Adelman. Though they are no longer involved
 with the company they founded in 1986, their invention of a seminal method
 of cryptography set the tone for the company and is crucial in online
 commerce.

 Today RSA is perhaps best known for staging a prestigious annual security
 conference and for selling 20 million little devices that display a
 six-digit code computer users must type to gain access to computer
 networks. The code, which changes every minute as determined by an
 RSA-created algorithm, is unique to each SecureID token, making it
 useless to a snoop.

 The requirement that users enter the code in addition to a password is
 known as two-factor authentication, an approach that figures to gain ground
 over simple passwords as more and more sensitive data move online.

 Indeed, RSA's sales of authentication products jumped 16 percent last year,
 as RSA's overall profits more than doubled, to $35 million. E-Trade
 Financial Corp. and America Online Inc. began offering SecureID devices to
 some customers over the past year. The Associated Press also uses the
 tokens for network access.

 It is the Kleenex or Q-Tip of two-factor identification, said Gregg
 Moskowitz, an analyst with the Susquehanna Financial Group. SecureID is
 the brand name.

 But wide deployment in consumer applications has come slowly.

 In theory, every institution that does business on a Web site could
 increase its security by offering its users RSA tokens.

 But practically, it would be a nightmare to have 20 different devices with
 their own codes. And banks apparently don't trust one another enough to
 accept a competitor's authentication token.


 RSA hopes to smash such hang-ups by acting as an intermediary, launching a
 new hosted service this fall in which its servers will check whether a
 consumer entered the proper token code -- even if the token was made by an
 RSA rival -- then relay the yea or nay back to the bank. RSA already
 provides such a service for companies' internal access control, but has yet
 to offer it for consumer applications.


 Investors will be watching closely. Although Coviello is confident that
 wider trends in access control -- such as rampant identity theft and abuse
 of Social Security numbers -- should play to RSA's strengths, he
 acknowledges that RSA needs to do more to push the market rather than wait
 for it.

 That means RSA has to be much more than the company known for
 authentication tokens -- a product that some analysts say is coming down in
 price because of competition. RSA also hopes to expand its sales of
 software and security consulting services, where heftier rivals such as
 VeriSign Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. also lurk.

 When you consider all the identity theft that is taking place now, the
 challenge for RSA is to monetize that, Moskowitz said. It's easier said
 than done.

 RSA believes one key differentiator can be its research arm, including the
 eight people in RSA Labs, a group so focused on the advanced mathematics
 behind cryptography that it is described as an academic institution within
 the company.

 RSA researchers are expected to dream up ways to expand the use of
 two-factor authentication, though sometimes that puts