More than five years ago a client came to me and asked how to stop account sharing. At the time, the main concern was to safeguard sensitive consumer information against unauthorized access – secondarily, to preserve the value of a paid membership. The results of that project led to Clareity Consulting spinning off Clareity Security, letting me focus on consulting while a different team of talented folks wakes up every day thinking of how to deal with authentication challenges and develop products that are specific to real estate. Now that nearly half the MLS users in the country are using some form of strong authentication I find it interesting that, likely due to the economy, the main selling point for security is no longer ‘information security’ but is now ‘revenue assurance’.
Subscription services – both inside and outside real estate – are seeing more people than ever trying to save a few dollars by sharing paid subscription accounts. It’s not uncommon to measure more than 30% account sharing when authentication services are put in place. And, I think we’ll see even more of this in 2010. What does this mean to MLSs and MLS users? If user-oriented strong authentication is NOT in place, it means that membership revenues – resources needed to serve users – will go down while the same number or an even greater number of people are using those resources. Instead of having the money to pay for faster systems and better tools for MLS subscribers, the MLS subscribers that remain will be subsidizing the same old service. Thankfully, the industry continues to move forward with strong authentication adoption, though I’ve seen some ineffective methods promulgated as ‘strong authentication’ from some quarters.
The key to strong authentication adoption has been re-positioning it from ‘information security’ to ‘revenue assurance’ – making sure everyone using the resource is using their fair share. Having the good security and reporting in place to show that *all* of the unauthorized users have been caught and all legitimate users have been made to pay has been the key to Clareity Security’s success in real estate – especially for success of Clareity Security’s new Intelligence-driven (tokenless) authentication.
In 2010 I expect there will be a lot more interest in revenue assurance. Some of the less effective but ‘checklist compliant’ (bogus) solutions will likely be put to the side as MLS operators – or even vendors – demand verifiable success in their efforts to ensure that they are being paid for what they are providing.
I’m also seeing more interest for the use of information security mechanisms as revenue assurance from outside the industry – every site that makes money from account subscriptions or for which an accurate subscriber count is important is going to be looking at revenue assurance in this economy. It will be interesting to watch awareness of revenue assurance increase over time and to see how adoption of user authentication mechanisms increases to match it. In the coming months I will also be interested to watch how the data being gathered for user authentication and usage tracking can be used in other ways to provide the MLS with information and decision making tools for their business. More on this in a future blog post!
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