The past 18 months (and longer for some parts of the world) have transformed every industry. In identity, we’ve adapted like every other industry (that’s been able to) to increased remote working and cyber threats.
Now, in many areas of the world, we are seeing restrictions eased and governments setting out plans for the ‘new normal’. So how has identity been shaped by the last 18 months? And what does ‘opening up’ mean for the future of the identity industry?
The critical role of identity in the pandemic so far
One of the biggest changes to happen at the start of the pandemic was the sudden shift to remote working to ensure a level of business continuity. Naturally, identity played (and continues to play) a key role in enabling secure access to company systems for employees, regardless of location. However, from an identity perspective, employees outside of the office started to look and behave more like external users (customers/partners/citizens) – a ‘blurring of lines’ occurred. This put an emphasis on the need for flexible Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) solutions to remove any barriers to operational efficiency and security.
Speaking of security, the pandemic caused unprecedented levels of cyber-attacks. Bad actors seized the increase in vulnerabilities resulting from remote working, more digital interactions and the general chaos/fearmongering leading individuals to make otherwise obvious blunders. Again, identity took a leading role in mitigating against data breaches, providing greater assurance that online entities really are who they claim to be – whether organisations, individuals or things.
Probably an even bigger concern for many businesses though was the rush to protect revenue and control costs amongst all the uncertainty. How an online service handles identity is often a differentiator when it comes to user experience, and how this is balanced against security risks. We’ve all been there – tried to use services that enforce username/password creation, ask for repeated information, don’t allow us to change our own account settings etc. It often results in signup abandonment or eventually moving on to a competing service. Again, the businesses that had already invested in CIAM were well set up for converting and retaining digital users (and therefore revenue), whilst others rushed to implement solutions as they were unable to rely on face-to-face interactions, or furloughing IT Support staff who would otherwise have helped with manual password resets etc.
What happens next for identity
No one knows exactly how the pandemic will play out over the next few years – so all digital transformation will need to incorporate flexibility, enabling businesses to deal with the level of uncertainty. What percentage of staff will continue to work from home, either all or part of the time? How will cybersecurity threats evolve? Will we need to return to lockdown, again making digital-first strategies critical to business survival? Whatever happens, organisations with a flexible, yet robust, identity strategy will win out.
Not least because even if the world were to return to normal tomorrow, expectations for digital services have changed. Consumers expect to be able to complete anything they need to do online. Many high street retailers and banks, for example, have closed physical branches to reflect these preferences, knowing that the lower footfall is a trend here to stay. So identity’s status will remain as important as it is in the fully remote world.
And it’s not just technophiles who are demanding that services are digitised. All kinds of people, with all kinds of devices (nod to multichannel strategies), with all kinds of abilities, must be able to access them. This places even greater importance (though arguably it should have always been there) on inclusive identity solutions. For example, offering a wide range of authentication options so that individuals who can’t use a certain option (like biometrics) can still get convenient and secure access.
There are countless opportunities to take advantage of the use cases that digital identity offers. For example, anyone that has bought a house (perhaps excluding in Estonia and other digitally mature countries) may recognise the hours spent gathering and scanning documents for various parties – I would personally much rather use a national-level digital ID or some kind of self-sovereign identity solution (SSI) than scan in yet another utility bill as proof of address 😐. Though again we need to recognise the importance of options here.
One such opportunity that identity enables, directly related to Covid, is the controversial health passport – proof of Covid test result/vaccination data. Understandably, there are concerns about data privacy and even human rights related to health passports, yet their use in certain contexts (such as travel) looks increasingly likely to go ahead. Identity – here, how one verifies that the test result or vaccination certificate actually belongs to them – will play a key role in an effective, privacy by design solution.
Identity continues to grow
All this reliance on digital identity is leading to significant investment in the industry – from both public and private sectors. From a private sector perspective, Okta’s acquisition of Auth0 (both US identity companies, announced in March 2021) represents one of the largest cybersecurity acquisitions of all-time. Meanwhile, as a public sector example, the UK government has set out the next phase of its digital identity plans, as a result of the increase in demand for digital IDs during the pandemic.
Investment from wider organisations has recently been largely channelled into the Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) category. To start benefitting from proven identity solutions and get applications to market as fast as possible, organisations are increasingly turning to IDaaS solutions, following other IT industries in the growth in demand for SaaS/cloud services. Gartner estimates that by 2022, IDaaS will be the chosen delivery model for more than 80% of new access management purchases globally.
- Ubisecure is one of a very small number of European owned and operated IDaaS providers. Try its proven solution yourself with a free IDaaS trial.
How will society continue to be impacted by the pandemic in 1 year? Or even 5 years? No one knows for sure, but one thing is for sure – identity will remain core to business success.