A New Venn Of Access Control For The API Economy

Eve Maler

Cloud providers and many federated IAM practitioners are excited about OAuth, a new(ish) security technology on the scene. I’ve written about OAuth in Protecting Enterprise APIs With A Light Touch. The cheat-sheet list I keep of major OAuth product support announcements already includes items from Apigee, Covisint, Google, IBM, Layer 7, Microsoft, Ping Identity, and salesforce.com. (Did I miss yours? Let me know.)

OAuth specializes in securing API/web service access by a uniquely identified client app on behalf of a uniquely identified user. It has flows for letting the user explicitly consent to (authorize) this connection, but generally relies on authorizing the actions of the calling application itself through simple authentication. So does the auth part of the name stand for authentication, authorization, or what? Let’s go with “all of the above.”

However, OAuth is merely plumbing of a sort similar to the WS-Security standard (or, for that matter, HTTP Basic Authentication). It doesn’t solve every auth* problem known to humankind, not by a long shot. What other IAM solutions are popping up in the API-economy universe? Two standards communities are building solutions on top of OAuth to round out the picture:

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Participating In Markets For Portable Identities In The Cloud: What’s The Coin Of Your Realm?

Eve Maler

Many IT security pros are moving toward disruptive new authentication and authorization practices to integrate securely with cloud apps at scale. If you’re considering such a move yourself, check out my new report, The “Venn” of Federated Identity. It describes the potential cost, risk, efficiency, and agility benefits when users can travel around to different apps, reusing the same identity for login.

Aggregate sources of identities are large enough now to attract significant relying-party application “customers” – but the common currency for identity data exchange varies depending on whether the source is an enterprise representing its (current or even former) workforce, a large Web player representing millions of users, or other types of identity providers. These days, the SAML, OAuth, and OpenID technologies are the hard currencies you’ll need to use when you participate in these identity markets. You can use this report to start matching what’s out there to your business scenarios, so you can get going with confidence.

Identity Assurance Means Never Having To Say “Who Are You, Again?”

Eve Maler

A decade after launching the SAML standard and seeing its, shall we say, stately pace of adoption, it’s wild to see real single sign-on and federated attribute sharing starting to take off for social networking, retail sites, online gaming, and more — not to mention seeing the US government starting to consume private-sector identities on citizen-facing websites.

Last week, we published a report on Outsourcing Identity Assurance. In it, I examine this “Government 2.0” effort, including the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), and its innovations around identity assurance, and the confidence you can have in the real-world verification of the identity you’ve been given by an identity provider. We’re predicting you’ll see new Web 2.0-ish ways to outsource identity verification in the coming three years, driven by use cases like e-prescribing, high-value eCommerce, and even online dating.

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