Knowledge-Based Authentication: Benefits And Types

With the proliferation of technology in the 21st Century, data security has become a matter of grave concern. Security and privacy in the online setting have faced constant threats, with many people seeking to gain access to data they are not permitted to access. As such, developers are responsible for identifying the identity of different people trying to access information to authorize them to access the data in question. This process is known as user authentication.

There are three principal types of user authentication. These are knowledge-based, artifact-based, and biometric-based. Artifact-based authentication verifies a person’s identity by scanning an object only the individual should have. Thus, the method requires an individual to have a machine-readable tag or electronic smart card. The apparent drawback of this method of authentication is one can lose their card, thus compromising the security of the data.

As the name suggests, biometric-based authentication verifies an individual’s identity by scanning biometric information such as fingerprints, retina, or voice. This method is very secure since it is difficult for fraudulent persons to replicate or steal biometric details.

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The article discusses Knowledge-Based Authentication, how it differs from other types of authentication, its constituent types, and its benefits and drawbacks.

What Is Knowledge-Based Authentication?


Knowledge based authentication, also known by its acronym KBA, is an authentication method that seeks to verify an individual’s identity based on the information they provide. The verification method is based on the premise that the information provided can only be availed by the person whose identity is to be verified. Thus, the understanding is that only the person whose identity is sought will know the information in question.

KBA techniques and methods are divided into two types: static and dynamic. This distinction is based on the kinds of questions one can ask in the authentication process. KBA has broad applicability and usage even in the past. For instance, you could use KBA in password reset or account recovery by asking the person seeking the account recovery a list of predetermined questions that allow you to identify the individual and whether they are the owners of the account or persons authorized to seek an account recovery. In other instances, KBA works alongside passwords to ensure multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication ensures that there are multiple layers of security.

Types of Knowledge-Based Authentication


As stated above, KBA includes dynamic and static types of authentications.

Static Knowledge-Based Authentication


Static KBA is one of the most widely used security methods globally, especially for multi-factor authentication and recovery. Static KBA relies on authentication based on shared secrets or shared secret questions. Thus, the responses to the questions are shared between the user and the platform seeking authentication.

The questions relate to rudimentary and basic information such as birthdays, the names of one’s pets, their favorite color, high schools, maiden names, and other things. In most instances, the users select the questions and their responses when setting up their accounts. As such, they are adequately prepared to answer these questions.

The main drawback of static KBA is that most private information is available online. One could quickly share their pets’ names on a social media post. Additionally, everyone you went to high school with is aware of the school you went to. An example of the drawback of that authentication method is the hack of Governor Sarah Palin’s Yahoo account in 2008 since all her recovery information was available online.

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Dynamic Knowledge-Based Authentication


Dynamic KBA differs from static KBA in that dynamic KBA does not require the user to define the answers to the questions beforehand. All the questions are different and are generated in real-time from information associated with the user but are not available to the general public or at face value on the individual’s wallet.

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Some questions may relate to information concerning one’s credit history, the specific address they worked or stayed at during a random time, the digits of their social security number, or the last purchase one made on their credit card. These details would only be available to the actual owner of the account. While this information can be publicly available, it is less likely.

Benefits of Using Knowledge-Based Authentication


The following are the benefits of KBA:

  • It guarantees an additional layer of security in case of a hack.
  • Some KBAs are structured to require answers in a short time frame to keep someone from researching the responses.
  • Questions are randomized in the case of dynamic KBA. Thus, unauthorized access is greatly minimized.

Drawbacks of Using Knowledge-Based Authentication


While KBA has a lot of advantages, there are also numerous drawbacks, as follows:

  • Publicly available data could lead to the public having answers to the questions asked.
  • Since dynamic KBA could access data from long ago, even authorized users could have trouble remembering answers.


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Security is essential for any database manager or even a general user. Thus, you may be highly advantaged were you to incorporate KBA into the security protocols of your organization or system.

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