Two-factor authentication service launched for emergencies

Signify Ltd. now offers a two-factor authentication service for companies experiencing network difficulties due to unforeseen circumstances.

Cambridge-based Signify Ltd. has launched an authentication service to enable rapid enterprise deployment of two-factor authentication to employees who, due to disasters or other emergencies, suddenly find themselves unable to get to their normal place of work.

This new authentication service, called Signify In Case of Emergency (ICE), comes at an opportune time, considering the recent disruption of airline traffic, plus the long-running fear of an avian flu epidemic, both of which have underlined the need for flexibility in the way companies communicate.

Signify already operates a cloud-based two-factor authentication service using either RSA SecurID tokens to deliver one-time passwords to users, or tokenless codes that can be sent by email or by text to a mobile phone.

The new offering allows customers of the service to extend its use at short notice to employees who wouldn't normally need it because they work from a network-connected PC.

In the case of an emergency, administrators with access rights can log on to the Signify Web portal and select the additional users who need authentication for the organisation's remote access system.

These users then receive notification that they've been granted remote access automatically by email or SMS and are directed to a webpage where they can set up a secret PIN and request a one-time password. The password is then sent to their mobile phones via SMS, and is entered along with their secret PIN when they log in to their corporate network remotely, for instance from their home computer.

Liam Crilly, chief technology officer for Signify, explained that the service was designed for existing Signify customers and is intended to work on an 'insurance policy' model. Customers can load up details from their entire workforce if they like, and then take out as many ICE licences as they estimate they might need at any one time.

"You just buy whatever you think you might need in a worst-case scenario," Crilly said. "That could be an office, or a whole country, depending on your business."

Prices per ICE will depend on volumes, but are likely to equate to around £10 per user annually. Crilly said users could be activated "within a couple of minutes."

Bob Tarzey, an analyst with Windsor-based research group Quocirca Ltd., said the service would be a useful business continuity tool, and the pricing seemed reasonable for an organization that needs an "insurance policy" for emergency remote access.

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