Is the One Time Password the electronic signature of tomorrow?

One Time Passwords

We've all experienced or heard about the debate on the validity of the electronic signatures. Is this technology legally valid? Is it reliable? Issues that have spilled much ink in recent years and which, ultimately, did not result into consensus.

The reason is simple. The most important issue concerning the electronic signature is: how can we ensure the authentication of the person performing an electronic signature? Are we sure that this is Mr. Pierre Legrand for example is currently validating a contract online? Is this not a malicious third party who uses his signature?

There are doubts about this technology and the ‘Internet market’ did not wait for us to choose for security. Let’s be honest: Who’s using an electronic signature system in its daily activities? Yes, when filling out tax return once or twice a year. In other words, the electronic signature is dead before having lived at all.

OTP: An evolving technology

Often a problem with the efficiency of a technology is determined by the appearance of a new technology. This is exactly what took place with the systems of "One Time Password". The operating principle is very simple. It is based on direct user interaction during the validation process. We use these technologies without necessarily knowing we’re using them. The best example is buying over the Internet. When for instance Pierre Legrand buys a train ticket, he must validate his purchase by giving the payment system a code obtained by sending a text message on his mobile phone. Mr. Legrand is authenticated via an object that belongs to him: his smartphone.

The potential of these systems we call OTP, is well established. Today, the main national banking organisations have suited this technology. These banks offer payment platforms that validate purchases simply via text messages. Tomorrow, the most technologically advanced facilities will resort to hybrid technologies. Thus, in some systems, you'll not receive SMS anymore. Your application will perform a push message directly to your mobile phone: a more secure solution and a lot less expensive for these banking organisations. Let us not forget that SMS comes with some cost and that the purchases made on the Internet will not stop growing.

Multi-purpose use of OTP

It is now appropriate to ask what the future of the OTP will look like. We cannot say that it can only be used for online payments. Does it have a potential to become a tool with a wider use? We say yes, without a doubt. It is even more likely that this authentication system may become an essential basic the coming years. Recently, some domestic insurers have appropriated this technology to validate online contracts. The OTP becomes a tool to validate an administrative approach. 

Today we have a number of increasingly important passwords that provide access to often confidential data. For hackers worldwide passwords have value and the number of attacks concerning these data continue to rise.

Recent hacks of social networks 

Take the example of social networks. They are particularly concerned by these attacks because they are playing an increasingly important role among the public and businesses. The recent hack of Facebook and Twitter accounts of TV5 Monde are a good example. The TV communication channels were hacked easily and in plain sight. Would it be possible to access those accounts if they had been linked to OTP technology?

We can only note the growing success of the OTP. Soon, we believe that all passwords will be managed by systems with push technology. A more positive future, in some way.

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Jeremy Delrue

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