What’s In It for Me? – The Incentive for Stronger Authentication

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In a recent article from ITPRO UK, it was hinted that cloud storage firm DropBox may offer free storage space in an attempt to push customers to use stronger authentication. On one hand, it’s alarming that this may be what it takes to push consumers/customers to use stronger methods of authentication. On the other, it’s alarming that businesses have waited so long to take a measure such as this. For businesses, this is an excellent way to even the stakes against hackers, and for consumer’s this may be what it takes to make stronger authentication a part of their everyday lives.

The New Generation of Consumers

US News published an article in late June highlighting the lack of cyber awareness among millennials who will surpass baby boomers as the largest living generation in the US. ” Despite being the first generation to have grown up using the Internet, studies indicate millennials can be surprisingly unaware of online security threats they face.” As one of the largest groups of tech users, this makes the challenge to create a safer IoT even bigger.

To make matters worse, many millennials continue to engage in risky behaviors online. A study last year by the National Cyber Security Alliance and Raytheon found that 72 percent of the 1,000 millennials surveyed had connected to public Wi-Fi not secured with passwords, and 52 percent had plugged in a USB device given to them by someone else. Another study from Raytheon in 2013 reported that 23 percent of millennials admitted to sharing an online password with a nonfamily member within the past year.”

This is a scary thought for businesses knowing that the majority of their user base likely has little concern regarding their online security.

The Incentive for Change

The number of large hacks and data breaches increases daily, yet the general attitude towards stronger authentication among consumers is, ‘What’s in it for me?’, until they are caught in the aftershock of a major breach. What DropBox is allegedly attempting to do may pave the way for other businesses. The incentive for hackers is and always will be there as the monetary value of stolen data continues to rise. The incentive for businesses grows as every breach hits the headlines. According to an IBM/Ponemon study the average total cost of a data breach has grown to $3.79 million. Adding an incentive for consumers adds the final piece to the puzzle and provides a pseudo-answer to the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ While consumers will be incentivized with free storage or some other added value, they will also be more secure.

At the end of the day, what would a minor incentive such as the proposed offering from DropBox cost a business? Customers who are safer online, maybe a bit of added brand loyalty, and the potential to quell the interests of hackers… doesn’t sound like much to lose. This is a great tactic for pushing consumers to subconsciously check their cyber health and gradually accept stronger authentication. As the interest in safer online practices grows, this is the perfect time to introduce protocols such as those being developed by the FIDO Alliance. Blending an introduction of the two will ultimately lead to a smoother and seemingly unnoticeable transition to a safer digital world.

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