The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines identity as “the distinctive character or personality of an individual”. Digital Identity has one main purpose, which is to verify that we are who we say we are, and the disparate methods used to do this are now ripe for reform, with new technologies poised to bring about much-needed change.
We have seen how the pandemic has accelerated the need for robust and dynamic digital identity protection. Over the past two years we have needed to access all kinds of services, while to do so we have used different means to share personally identifiable information. It’s not without risk: some of the methods used don’t lend themselves to rigorous credential verification, and cybercriminals will look for ways to hijack people’s personal information, underscoring the need for reform.
At the start of the digital age, many of the initial threats to an individual’s digital identity were countered by digital identity protection measures evolving at that time. As cybercriminals developed methods to perform identity theft, these efforts were suppressed with new threat detection and response tools. Online technology and habits have come a long way, and online transactions and checks are part of our daily lives.
However, the verification methods used often reveal more than the required information. For example, if you need to prove your age to complete a transaction or access a service, you are likely providing a lot more personal information, including your height, eye color, marital status, and address, all of which may be collected and stored. by third parties. Additionally, we want a digital identity system that goes beyond identity protection and enables consumers to live safe and productive digital lives.
Identity theft occurs when an individual’s personally identifiable information is obtained and used without permission, often for profit. Identity thieves can therefore make unauthorized purchases with credit cards, take over existing financial accounts, and even create new financial accounts, which can lead to financial loss. .
We are now at a critical moment. Businesses and institutions around the world are recognizing the need for change. Although we’ve moved beyond the need for in-person “handwritten signatures” to prove our identity for many transactions, we need a new way to secure legitimate transactions and verify digital identities, beyond the physical.
The next-gen approach should give users better control over their data exposure and streamline the digital identity protection process, to eliminate over-sharing of personal data, which unnecessarily exposes sensitive information. One design that provides these capabilities is Decentralized Digital Identity (DDI) technology. Otherwise known as self-sovereign identity, the technology gathers necessary credentials into a digital wallet, ending the existing complexity.
With credentials stored in your digital wallet, DDI technology allows cryptographic evidence to be shared with verifiers – so specific credentials can be shared, rather than sending untrusted photographic evidence and reveal whole sets of irrelevant personal data. Additionally, cryptographic mechanisms guarantee the integrity of said credentials and provide the level of assurance required by modern transactions.
The solution is within our grasp, giving people a viable option for their personal information to be transmitted with greater security and privacy controls. According to a *report on cybercriminality Recently, we know that people in India are already concerned about data privacy, with almost nine in 10 (88%) Indian adults actively taking steps to hide their digital footprint – their personal information online. This is a strong indication of how much Indians already want to control the information they share and the emerging importance of an electronic identity solution.
This next-gen solution would also promote and streamline user consent options, as well as standardize verification in general. Perhaps more importantly, DDI has even been standardized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and is supported by many other key stakeholders. This level of support enhances the potential success of the standard, even if it is implemented by completely different entities.
There is an opportune time to reform digital identity, with future-proof systems available, with experts and technology providers ready to provide the support needed to help drive this digital identity revolution.
(*Survey for the report conducted by The Harris Poll between November 15 and December 7, 2021. Based on an online survey of 1,000 Indian adults.)
By Petros EfstathopoulosGlobal Head of Research, NortonLifeLock