Understanding Identity Verification

Identity verification is a method used to authenticate an individual’s identity. As we increasingly conduct our personal and professional activities online

Identity verification is a method used to authenticate an individual’s identity. As we increasingly conduct our personal and professional activities online, digital identity verification has become a standard security practice. But how does it function? What are the most reliable techniques? Let’s delve deeper to help you understand.

What does identity verification entail?

Identity verification involves validating an individual’s identity by confirming that they are who they claim to be and that the identity data they provide is authentic. The simplest approach is to verify the individual’s identity documents.

You likely participate in the identity verification process regularly, whether by presenting your government ID at a supermarket to purchase alcohol or snapping a photo of your ID to establish an online bank account.

Both government entities and private companies employ similar identity verification procedures to deter identity theft and fraud, the establishment of fraudulent or multiple accounts, and data theft. So, how is it accomplished?

How is the identity verification procedure implemented?

The most straightforward way to authenticate someone’s identity is to request their passport, driver’s license, or other government-issued identity document. If the individual presents a valid ID with their photo on it, their identity is confirmed.

However, when an individual is not physically present, such as when they are setting up a social media account, their identity must be authenticated digitally. In this scenario, service providers employ various techniques that differ in their security levels. Let’s examine them.

What does digital identity verification involve?

Digital identity verification is the procedure of utilizing digital solutions to acquire evidence that the user is who they claim to be. Digital identity verification techniques are employed to compare something that a user provides (a government-issued ID, an ID photo, a password, etc.) with some data that the service provider has previously verified (ID document, the photo of the document holder, a password, etc.) and stored in its database.

Online service providers employ various techniques to collect evidence of their user’s identity and ascertain the validity of the information provided. So, what are these techniques?

What is the process of digital identity verification?

Different organizations select distinct verification techniques to enhance the security of their online platforms. Here are the primary methods for digital ID verification:

Document Verification for ID

When registering new clients, financial institutions utilize this approach to confirm if the government-issued identity documents (such as passport, ID card, or driver’s license) were submitted by you and whether the documents are valid. This is why they request you to capture a photo of your ID document and a selfie and upload both to their website.

Their AI software (and sometimes assigned staff members) scrutinize the uploaded images to validate the genuineness of the ID document and to ensure that the selfie and the image on the document belong to the same individual.

Authentication Based on Knowledge (KBA)

This method requires answering security questions, for instance, when you’re setting up a new email account. These questions are typically personal, so the email provider presumes that only you would know the answers.

If you misplace your email password, the email provider poses these questions to ascertain if it’s genuinely you, the account owner, who is initiating the password recovery.

Authentication via Biometrics

Biometric authentication identifies you based on your unique physical attributes, your biometric identifiers. This security feature is available on numerous personal devices and is utilized in highly restricted areas.

Among 16 biometric identifiers, the five most frequently used are:

But how does biometric authentication function? Let’s look at fingerprint scanning.

Recall when you activated this security feature on your smartphone? Your phone system preserves your initial fingerprint scan and compares it to the one you provide each time you attempt to unlock your phone. If a thief acquires your phone, it will stay locked because their fingerprint will not match yours. The same principle applies to facial identification, speech recognition, and iris identification: no match — no entry.

Verification of Email

Service providers, including financial institutions, need to ensure that the email address you provided is accurate and genuine. They also require evidence that you are the owner of the email address.

It’s a standard procedure for the service provider to send a test email containing a verification code that you are asked to enter on the service provider’s platform to establish an account. The service provider also sends you an email with a code if you forget or wish to change your password, need to modify your account, or delete it entirely.

Verification of Phone

Just like emails, mobile phones are also employed for identity verification purposes. The service provider sends you an SMS with a verification code. You then enter the code in the service provider’s system to prove you are the owner of the phone number.

Authentication via Mobile App

This method involves using reliable authentication apps like Google Authenticator, Authy, or LastPass that you download on your smartphone. Whenever you try to access a resource, the app generates a time-sensitive code that you enter on the service provider’s platform to authorize the login attempt. For instance, this is done when you want to change the master password on your password manager application.

Verification via Social Media

If you have already verified your identity with a social media platform provider and received a verification badge or label, it is sufficient for you to be logged in to your social media account to be able to create and/or access another service provider’s account. You might have done so if you ever registered with a service provider using your Nord Account, Google or Facebook account.

Digital Signature

A digital signature serves as a modern replacement for traditional handwritten signatures. It employs cryptographic keys to link your identity to a document during a transaction. Each key is distinct to every signer and challenging to duplicate. Importantly, your identity must be confirmed before you can obtain the key, enhancing the security of the process. If the signed document is modified, the signature is invalidated, safeguarding all transaction participants from document falsification.

It’s crucial not to confuse a digital signature with an electronic signature, which can be any electronic data symbolizing the intent of a signature, such as your name typed at the end of an email. While electronic signature technologies offer some level of security, they are considered outdated and risky due to the ease of duplication and falsification. Therefore, it’s advisable to choose a digital signature.

Digital identity verification services are integral to the online operations of financial institutions and government agencies. Even private enterprises and corporations employ verification techniques for fraud deterrence and account protection. However, some methods are more resilient against hacking attempts than others.

Least Reliable Digital Identity Verification Methods

The least dependable methods for verifying your identity include:

Password. A standalone password can be deciphered, particularly if it’s weak or used across multiple accounts. KBA. Your security questions might be answerable by someone else. Phone verification. This method is dubious as hackers can relatively easily intercept text messages and security codes. Hence, it’s recommended to choose more trustworthy methods, such as email or social verification. Alternatively, enhance your account security by opting for the top methods outlined below.

Most Reliable Digital Identity Verification Methods

The most dependable methods include:

Biometric authentication. This technology, based on machine learning, features a liveness detection function to prevent criminals from impersonating you using your photo instead of a real-time selfie or a voice recording instead of a spoken password. Authentication apps. These apps send temporary authentication codes that only you can access, providing extra security. Digital signature. This method encrypts your transaction data, adding another layer of protection. A combination of secure methods. This is the optimal way to verify your identity. Depending on the number of factors used, this combination is referred to as either two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication.

Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA or two-step verification) is a security measure that provides an additional layer of protection for your resources and data.

You are required to provide two forms of identification to access your account, such as a password and a security code, or a password and a form of biometric authentication like a selfie. If the first identification step is compromised, the second will provide a backup.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) operates similarly to 2FA, but it necessitates at least two types of authentication rather than just two. To maximize the security of your online activities, NordVPN recommends using reliable user authentication apps and security keys for your multi-factor authentication.

Advantages of Online Identity Confirmation

Online identity confirmation not only matches but often surpasses the safety and speed of traditional verification.

Enhanced security. This is particularly applicable in the context of 2FA or MFA. No need for physical presence. In simple terms — it’s conducted online. Reduced chances of human error. Unlike humans, identity verification software rarely overlooks anything. Improved user experience. To minimize abandonment rates and simplify the account creation process, online identity confirmation services are designed to be fast and user-friendly.

The Evolution of Identity Verification

The online identity confirmation sector is gravitating towards biometrics as the main verification method, providing a high degree of security and reducing the need for physical identification.

The future may see us traveling without physical passports, making payments without credit cards, or hiring cars without physical driver’s licenses if the pace of development in online identity confirmation technologies continues. Your smartphone and/or your biometric data might suffice.

Predicting the exact trajectory of online identity confirmation is challenging, but one thing is clear — online identity confirmation represents the future.

Privacy Hints

PrivacyHints is a team built up of computer security experts, tech reporters, lawyers, and strong privacy supporters from all over the world working together.

As digital leaders, we strongly believe in the importance of personal privacy and the huge potential that comes from having a free but safe internet. We’re not just interested in listing risks; we’re also strongly committed to revealing the hidden threats that threaten our right to privacy and freedom online as a whole.

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