Geolocation - a security technology in disguise

A lot has been written about Geolocation services, ranging from the good stuff - ‘Where’s the nearest pizza shop to me - right now,’ to some of the less good stuff - ‘We know where you are right now,”. Unfortunately,...

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A lot has been written about Geolocation services, ranging from the good stuff - ‘Where’s the nearest pizza shop to me - right now,’ to some of the less good stuff - ‘We know where you are right now,”. Unfortunately, few seem interested in talking about the technology’s potential for to put to good use in security.

The world has moved on-line in a big way and perhaps one of the greatest comments came from a cartoon in the early days of mass access to the Internet (but before cyber-stalking became an issue) which read 'On the Internet no-one knows if you are a dog.'

How true that turned out to be in so many ways - and it is probably the greatest problem we have today. On the Internet nobody knows who you are, or for that matter, where you are. While this is a problem from a consumer perspective, it’s not as big a deal as it is from a business perspective.

As we move towards greater mobility, collaboration and the de-perimeterisation of corporate networks, knowing exactly who it is that is trying to get access is extremely important, and where they are trying to get access from is also a factor.

For example, sitting in a cyber-cafe in a country lacking security, you probably shouldn’t be able to get access to the corporate network (you shouldn’t do any personal Internet banking there either), but if you are sitting at home on a trusted system, then access would be ok. Geolocation  can help to verify where someone is. Is a given person connecting to the network really in Peru as they say they are?

Usernames and passwords can be relatively easily compromised, so a good security system needs more information before allowing access. Yes, you can have finger prints and retina scans, and these certainly have their place but are not all that portable. However one other item to be used could be your location, from the GPS on your smart phone, which could also be used for additional authentication.

New technologies offer new threats... but they also offer new opportunities as well.

By Guy Bunker, Jericho Forum board member