Icefire is a full-service digital transformation provider
Icefire’s expertise lies in custom-tailored solutions for customers ranging from FinTech and telecom to e-government and healthcare. Martin Valler joined the team over four years ago, starting as a developer. He has been moving up the ranks over the years, reaching the position of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) just this past September.
Simply put, Icefire is a one-stop shop, from concept to final solution, while keeping the clients’ business goals in mind. The company is engaged in business consultation, analysis, and development.
Icefire’s clients include LHV, Swedbank, Skype, Telia and the Tax and Customs Board of the Republic of Estonia, just to name a few. Right now, two of the biggest projects that Martin himself is working on involve Luminor Bank and the private medical clinic Confido.
Person as a digital identity
One of the main subjects Valler is interested in right now is digital identity. Not in the sense of presence in social media but rather from the view of how to access e-services with one’s digital identity.
“What we have seen over the years is that when a user wants to log in to a service there needs to be a so-called footprint about them in the system. The user needs to be described in the backend. The tricky part is when the user wants to use many different services. It’s been common that a person has many usernames to access different services but, nowadays, it’s more conventional to use a universal user across many different services,” Valler describes.
How users authenticate themselves has changed over the years. It started off with simple passwords and has moved to multifactor authentication.
“Right now, the trend is toward a so-called adaptive authentication where a user’s identity is being authenticated through their activities on a device. When did the user log in, where did they log in from, how did the login happen, how did the mouse move, how long did it take to type the password etc.? So, besides just asking for a password, the systems will look at those attributes and ask for multi-factor authentication only when their activity is not similar to their normal behaviour.”
Users are more demanding
According to Valler, users have become more demanding in recent years, wanting to be logged in to any service that they would like to use after signing in to their computer. Facebook, Apple, Google etc. can provide these kinds of solutions, but those are not the right options for all e-services. For example, online banks are not eager to use them for privacy reasons.
As Icefire has worked on seven online bank solutions and is currently working on its eighth online bank, Valler can give good examples from that field.
“Even though, after accessing an online bank the person thinks that all of the e-services are under one company and can be accessed right away, it is not always the truth. The leasing department could be under a subsidiary, which means the information about the user needs to move from one company to another. That means when data changes in one of them the data needs to change in the other one also. Can you imagine if, after accessing your bank online and while wanting to look for information regarding your home loan, you are asked to sign in again? Making it possible to access all of the services with one username you need to deploy a single sign-on (SSO) solution,” Valler says.
When looking from the outside, it might seem that there are not a lot of e-services built upon multiple, smaller e-services, but Valler assures that, in the time of cloud solutions, more and more services work in the background while the user might not differentiate them right away. One example he gave was in regard to a potential customer Icefire was in talks with this year who had about 200 services they wanted to tie together with an SSO.
An SSO can be viewed as a convenience service for the user and a way to save money for the company; they don’t need to operate many systems in the background in order to keep information about their clients.
DIY vs professional solution
“As security is something upon which the entire company relies, it has to be implemented correctly and using the most current capabilities. It is not something you would want to start creating from scratch as it covers development, integration, maintenance, upgrades and multiple other areas. Trying to do it on your own will lead to a situation where the company has no resources to do everyday business but has to concentrate mainly on the security solution,” Valler says.
Valler’s recent experience shows that it is a lot easier to use existing solutions on the market. For this exact reason, Icefire cooperates with ForgeRock, a company that provides a full platform for Identity and Access Management (IAM). As the large-scale project that Icefire and Forgerock are currently working on covers the Baltic market, the local digital identity solutions like Smart-ID and Mobile-ID were added to the platform to give the end-user the best digital experience.
Other parts of Europe have got catching up to do
Although Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians are used to digital identity solutions, Icefire says it is hard to find a worker from one of their partner companies in Western Europe that has used their digital ID-card to access a service.
“People in Western Europe are not keen on using digital identity solutions because they fear what data is left behind and where the data ends up. In that regard, the Estonian e-Residency solution could be deployed worldwide, it offers an option to use digital identity. The technical capacity is there with e-Residency, the main questions will be: which states are eager to support it with legislation and are the people up for using it? People in the older parts of Europe are used to waiting in lines and filling physical forms. It doesn’t need to be that way; there is an alternative. In Estonia, we managed to do it because the private and public sectors built digital identity together. Things that seem normal to us (Estonians) are still a future for others.”
Valler sees the COVID-19 pandemic as a good example of how digital identity helped Estonians work from a distance. As all of the public and many of the private services are accessible online, there was no need to develop new systems for it. Other countries could have done the same but they would need to have a system for it.
ForgeRock – one platform, all identities, any cloud
ForgeRock, a privately held digital identity leader, helps people access the connected world. According to Iwan Dijkstra, Account Executive for Nordics & Baltics at ForgeRock, the company serves 1100 enterprise customers with the only full-suite, AI-driven identity platform for any cloud. Organisations select ForgeRock to help improve and scale all things identity, governance, and access management with push-button deployments that enable exceptional digital experiences with no-compromise security.
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all parts of our lives. Businesses and governments alike are feeling the impact of a world gone online overnight. Systems are being tested – many companies are reporting traffic surges normally seen during World Cup matches. The effects are enormous and have put digital identity on the agenda inside boardrooms like never before. We are witnessing a shift in the way we live that will last for generations – none of us expect to go back to the old way of doing things. It’s too convenient to shop online or see a doctor for a routine check via Zoom.
The power of Amazon’s ‘buy now’ button has trained us all to expect a purchase with one click and a package on your porch the next day. That digital experience is now the expectation of employees as well as consumers. Organisations have an opportunity to seize this moment and find their own path to offering their employees and customers an ‘Amazon-like’ experience. The ForgeRock Identity Platform can help organisations achieve that.