Consumer Security Goes Green at VeriSign
Posted by Fran Rosch, VP of VeriSign Identity and Authentication Solutions
Living in California, I have tried to become as environmentally conscious as possible given the grim reports on climate change and rising sea levels. The major steps I have taken along with my family include installing brand new energy efficient appliances and significantly more insulation as part of our home remodel. We also implement smaller initiatives such as maximum recycling, eating organic and locally grown products and composting as much as possible. I have even given up coffee and my favorite Irish oatmeal because of the carbon required to ship these products such long distances. We also try (but usually fail) to restrict ourselves to bicycle-only transportation on weekends.
I know there is lots disagreement on whether these small actions actually make an impact but they do make us feel better. I also travel extensively for business which blows my personal carbon foot print sky-high regardless.
But, I have been thinking how VeriSign's VIP Consumer Authentication solution stands up against the competition as green or not. Traditional strong authentication companies sold by companies such as RSA and Vasco are software in-premise solutions based on proprietary solutions as compared to VeriSign Identity Protection ("VIP") which is network-based service driven by open standards.
For the software based solutions sold by our competition, an enterprise must purchase, install and manage a server infrastructure to validate the consumer's OTP (one-time password). There is a significant amount of energy used to manufacture these servers, ship them half way across the world and then power them 24x7. Never mind the energy use to develop the raw materials for the components. In contrast, VIP requires no infrastructure at the enterprise and uses a shared infrastructure installed at VeriSign's data centers. There is an immediate environmental savings by using shared infrastructure versus everyone operating their own. Using the VIP is like taking an electric high-speed train with hundreds of other happy passengers instead of each person getting in their own car by themselves and crawling along crowded highways.
Then I felt bad about all of those pesky plastic tokens that have been the staple of the traditional authentication solution market. Our competitors have manufactured and shipped over a hundred million of these devices which will eventually find their way to landfills across the globe. By using open standards and encouraging a diverse and creative ecosystem of credential providers, we can imagine strong authentication without any plastic tokens. By embedding an OTP generating into a device that a consumer already carries such as a credit card, mobile phone or PC, the industry can stop manufacturing security-only plastic tokens.
However, until all this innovation is fully ready for production, the VIP has another environmental benefit in that it allows the sharing of one credential across multiple websites. With traditional consumer authentication solutions, a consumer must have a separate token for each website requiring more materials, more manufacturing, more shipping and more eventual trash. This is commonly referred to as the "token necklace". With VeriSign, one device can be the key to many websites meaning the consumer will use it more and keep it longer resulting in less basura.
Finally, I thought what other environmental benefits could VeriSign encourage with our VIP product? Well, according to the survey results published by our friends in the analyst community, there are still millions of consumers who are too concerned with Internet fraud and security to use the Web for banking, shopping, healthcare, etc. If the VIP can help enterprises encourage these consumers to use more of the Internet for more of these activities and reduce their number of trips to the mall, that is a good thing for the environment.