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March 2010

Knowledge-based authentication poses privacy issues

Long, frigid winters and tough regulations forbidding utility companies from shutting off customers during the cold winter months drove a Midwestern oil company to use knowledge- based authentication (KBA) to root out fraudsters. The company, which didn't want to reveal its identity, experienced a sudden influx of new customers just before the winter. Once it got a KBA system up and running, call center operators posed a series of multiple choice questions to people seeking new accounts. Those who could answer the questions verifying their identities were set up with service while fraudsters trying to activate delinquent accounts under fake names were quickly rooted out. "People with large unpaid bills were trying to get their service turned back on for the winter," says Joram Borenstein, senior product marketing manager in RSA's identity and access assurance group; RSA the security division of EMC, provides the authentication service. "While it's tough to deny heat to someone, you can't stay in business if people are trying to ...

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