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What are Keystroke Dynamics? How Can It Improve Your Authentication?

Findings: The Forrester Wave: Privileged Identity Management (PIM), Q4 2020

What are Keystroke Dynamics? How Can It Improve Your Authentication?

What are keystroke dynamics? How can it improve your authentication? Why should you consider it for your multifactor authentication?

Also called keystroke biometrics, typing dynamics, and typing biometrics, keystroke dynamics represent the latest in biometric authentication. Unlike other forms of biometric such as fingerprint scanning, iris scanning, and facial recognition, keystroke dynamics don’t require an active input. Instead, keystroke dynamics analyzes the typing patterns of users; this can include typing rhythms, frequent mistakes, which shift keys they use for capitalization and pace. 

In other words, keystroke dynamics create a baseline for users’ typing and then use that baseline to watch for abnormalities. If an abnormality is detected, then it can ask for a different authentication factor to verify the user or end the session immediately, depending on security policies.

So, instead of considering what words users type, the manner in which they type becomes of special interest. Here’s why this matters. 

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Keystroke Dynamics as Authentication Factor

Biometrics factors offer a tantalizing prospect to IT decision-makers: an authentication factor hackers can’t steal or replicate. Threat actors can frequently crack passwords, or even guess them from social media information. SMS messaging can end up intercepted by crafty hackers, and some can even send fake SMS messages in a unique phishing attack. With time and patience, threat actors can replicate the signature of hard tokens, or they could take the low-tech route of stealing them. 

Of course, this is why enterprises must deploy multifactor authentication rather than single-factor authentication or two-factor authentication; the more factors you deploy, the more hackers deterred or blocked from access. However, no digital perimeter created through identity remains completely impervious. Eventually, with the right tools and skills, hackers can gain access.

Biometric factors offer an alternative that hackers cannot steal or fake; this is often based on the fact that so far, no hacker has successfully stolen biometric data and then used it in an attack. However, this does not mean hackers can never do so; it simply means that hackers have not done so as of yet. 

Conversely, keystroke dynamics fall under the category of “behavioral biometrics;” these use the behaviors of the users as an authentication factor. As such, hackers cannot “steal them” because they are integral to the personality of the users; they also cannot replicate them for the same reasons. 

A Step to Continuous Authentication

Keystroke dynamics also contributes to a new revolution authentication: continuous authentication. Previously, authentication would stop at the login stage; if you knew the password you received access, no further questions asked. 

Continuous authentication by contrast constantly verifies users, looking for any sign they may be victims of infiltration. Any sign of malicious subversion can trigger alerts and incident response, speeding up response times and thus mitigating damage from a breach. 

Behavioral biometrics helps support continuous authentication policies, which provide the visibility you need for your cybersecurity. Our Biometric Authentication Buyer’s Guide contains critical information on the top solution providers and key capabilities in the market. Also, we provide a Bottom Line analysis on each vendor. 

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