NIST explains its guidance on ‘deprecation’ of SMS for authentication

NIST explains its guidance on ‘deprecation’ of SMS for authentication

In a blog published on Friday, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) explained its guidance on ‘deprecating’ the use of out-of-band secure message service (SMS) for authentication.

The use of SMS as a second factor for strong authentication largely refers to situations in which a one-time code is sent to a person’s mobile phone by a bank, for example. The use of the code, along with a password, enables the person to gain access to accounts.

Against the backdrop of the fact that the deprecation of SMS for authentication has been recommended by the NIST in the draft NIST Special Publication 800-63-3: Digital Authentication Guideline, Paul Grassi – senior standards and technology advisor at NIST – said: "We are saying 'deprecated,' we are not saying 'not allowed'."

Grassi further explained in a post on his blog that the NIST has recommended the phasing out of the use of SMS “as a second factor,” but not the discontinuation of the two-factor authentication process. Grassi also added that the NIST actually recommends two-factor authentication “for all levels of assurance.”

Asserting that the SMS deprecation message sent out by the NIST is "a strong signal to agencies to look for alternative plans,” Grassi said: “Implement at your own risk because of the vulnerabilities we told you about and at any given time we can expressively disallow it. These are the guidelines."

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