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Visa becomes third major card association to join FIDO Alliance

Visa follows Discover and MasterCard’s lead becoming the third card association to join the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance’s board of directors. The FIDO Alliance is focused on developing standards and technical specifications to make online authentication more secure.

The FIDO Alliance was formed in mid-2012 to address two primary issues with online authentication: the lack of interoperability standards across strong authentication devices, and the reliance on consumer created usernames and passwords, which are often weak and used across multiple platforms. Discover and MasterCard joined as board members towards the end of 2013, and Visa is the most recent board member to join announcing their participation in late May.

Other major companies on the FIDO Alliance board include Google, Microsoft, Bank of America, PayPal, RSA, and Samsung. The FIDO Alliance’s focus is developing specifications to support a variety of authentication methods and technologies including biometrics, USB Security Tokens, smart cards, and mobile hardware-based authentication systems such as embedded secure elements, Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth Low Energy.

FIDO specifications can fall under one of two categories: U2F and UAF.

U2F refers to the Universal Second Factor protocol and augments password-based user authentication by having the user present a strong second authentication factor. Examples of this include a USB dongle the user has in their device and showing possession of a previously verified mobile device via NFC.

The Universal Authentication Framework (UAF) protocol is FIDO’s passwordless user experience. When the user registers their device with an online service they provide a form of biometric verification through their fingerprint, facial or voice recognition and may also provide a PIN.

FIDO sets open specifications to support various methods of authentication and accommodate future technologies. FIDO Alliance members can submit products to the FIDO Certification Working Group for certification, currently the only status is “FIDO Ready.” The first FIDO Ready technology was announced in February when Samsung and PayPal joined forces to support biometric fingerprint authentication for consumers shopping via Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphones when using PayPal.

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