Internet has come to play an integral part in the lives of many European citizens. A large majority of people believe and even accept that there is no alternative other than to provide personal information if they want to obtain products or services online. The reliance on digital technology and the transfer of personal data to enable the use of online services come with substantial security risks however, such as online fraud and identity theft. A significant part of data breaches involve weak authentication credentials.

Password protection has been the default method of authentication online to date. This simple mechanism has many advantages, but the use of usernames and passwords in practice is severely flawed in both security and usability. Other solutions, typically employed in conjunction with passwords in a multi-factor approach, usually improve the robustness of the authentication. However, the increased security of multi-factor authentication has come at the price - limited usability and privacy concerns for individuals and increased costs for providers. Users often find multi-factor authentication (MFA for short) cumbersome and a burden in terms of time and effort. This burden is then transferred to providers who find it challenging to register or even retain users. In addition to this limitation, providers are also confronted with the high costs of MFA as the method often requires additional hardware.

Another significant concern for citizens is privacy. A number of authentication methods, such as the ones based on biometric traits, rely on the collection of large amounts of sensitive personal data. However, these approaches typically fail to assure citizens' trust by giving visibility over how this collected data is used and stored.

There is a clear need for a simple, secure and privacy-friendly way of seamlessly authenticating individuals online.

This Horizon prize aims to significantly improve citizen's overall experience related to online authentication and consequently foster the widespread adoption of services and products provided within the Digital Single Market of the European Union.

This prize also complements the activities of the Cybersecurity cPPP which aims to develop Europe's strengths in digital security.

Expected Impact:

An information and communication technologies (ICT) solution that enables citizens to seamless authenticate themselves across a wide range of applications and devices. The solution should be easy to use, reliable, robust against cyber-attacks, privacy-friendly and compatible as well as affordable and open. It should be ready to benefit a wide range of the EU population, from healthy to impaired citizens of all ages.

Dateline for submission: 27 September 2018 17:00:00 (Brussels time)

Source: The European Commission

Illustration Photo: Online security (CC0 Creative Commons from Pixabay.com)

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