10 Years Later – How Nok Nok Labs brought about a change in strong and passwordless authentication
By David Strom
Nok Nok Labs came into being, a decade ago and is having its’ moment in the spotlight. The company has seen the FIDO standards become adopted around the globe, in some cases with very large scalable deployments that involve millions of end users and sold more than 500M key pairs. Along with helping to assemble the beginnings of the FIDO Alliance, Nok Nok engineers were co-creators of this now well-established set of authentication standards and have continued to innovate (with 50 patents filed), integrate and improve upon them in the past decade.
Nok Nok’s success is well deserved, especially in light of the recent unprecedented funding announcement by Transmit Security, the need for better authentication processes thanks to the continued expansion of breaches during the pandemic (Solar Winds breach, Biden’s Executive order for MFA, Ransomware Attacks and the continued use of compromised credentials as the source of 80% of breaches (Verizon DBIR). Also it is quite timely, thanks to the Covid pandemic and having an expanding remote workforce and a larger volume of online shopping. These stronger authentication mechanisms have helped to build consumer and business confidence in their logins and transactions.
Nok Nok’s authentication products validate the need and the market adoption for these new authentication solutions. One of the interesting aspects is the more frequent usage of the phrase “passwordless authentication.” (The news story by Transmit Security puts the term front and center, for example.) Indeed, the term now signifies a bona fide market segment, all thanks to FIDO protocols which make it easier for companies to transition, deploy, and manage a more secure solution that is focused on stronger security and privacy.
The FIDO Alliance now consists of the three major endpoint device players (Microsoft, Apple and Google). Nok Nok has helped to pave the road for other companies to develop solutions that supports these standards. Nok Nok’s customers include some of the world’s largest banks and other financial services firms, telecommunications vendors, mobile network operators, and SaaS vendors. “We’ve taken an immense amount of pride in our continued innovation beyond the FIDO standards as shown by our years of experience with large, scalable deployments that involve millions of users,” said Phillip Dunkelberger, the CEO of Nok Nok. “We have made it easier to transition, deploy, and manage a more secure authentication solution that is focused on stronger security and privacy.”
Moreover, these new authentication products can deliver superior customer service. As an example, when a T-Mobile customer dials for help on 611, a customer representative doesn’t have to take the caller through an extensive question-and-answer dialog but can authenticate them immediately using FIDO keys. This saves time and reduces the frustration on both parties.
Until Nok Nok came along, there wasn’t a single source of authentications for mobile and web apps, to delegate authentications to third parties (such as during a typical online purchase with your credit card), using adaptive or step-up authentication (such as when a banking customer wants to make a major wire funds transfer) or something that is used by the typical “know your customer” process. That is a lot of different use cases that can benefit from stronger authentications, and we are all better for the past decade of Nok Nok’s developments.