Gartner Identity Summit London 2015 – Review

This week saw the Gartner Identity and Access Management Summit come to London town.  The event brings together the great and good from the identity community, with a range of vendors, consultancies and identity customers all looking to analyse the current market place and understand the current challenges as well as hot topics that can be applied in 2015 and beyond.

Hitting the Right Notes

The main keynote from the external speaker, was from the highly talented classical musician Miha Pogacnik.  Miha delivered an inspirational 60 minute talk, translating the components of classical music into the realm of business transformation.  He focused on organisational change and all the various different angles of repetition, aggression, questioning and responding that occur and the new challenges it places on organisations, whilst playing a piece of Bach on his violin!  Fantastic.



Consumers Have Identities Too

From a strategic identity perspective, there were several presentations on the developing need for consumer identity management. Many organisations are embracing digital transformation in both the private and public sector, defining use cases and requirements for things like consumer registration, authentication and multi-factor authentication, all done within a highly scalable yet simple identity management framework.

Traditional identity management platforms, products and delivery approaches, are often focused on small scale, repeatable use cases that focus on employees and workflow and don't require the scale or rapid time to delivery that consumer facing projects need.

Gartner's Lori Robinson went through the journey of differences between customer and employee identity management and how features such as consumer registration, map neatly to core provisioning and synchronization use cases, whilst features such as authentication are being extended to include things like adaptive risk, device finger printing and the use of one time passwords to help improve security when high value consumer transactions take place, such as address changes.

The Identity of Things Headache

Another emerging area that not only Gartner, but many consultants and customers were talking about, was that of applying identity patterns to devices and things.  Whilst there has been the initial hype of consumer focused things - such as fitness trackers, fridge monitors and so on - there is a great and developing need for identity and access patterns to the manufacturing space, utilities, SCADA and energy sectors.  Many devices are low powered and have limited cryptographic processing capabilities, but still require registration and linking use cases to be fulfilled as well as having the data their generate to be protected.

The linking, relationship building and data privacy concerns of the newly emerging internet of things landscape, requires heavy doses of identity and access management medicine to make them sustainable.

Newer emerging standards such as OpenID Connect and User Managed Access were the main focus of the coffee chatter and how they can provide federated authorization capabilities to both people and things based infrastructures.


Overall it was a well attended and thought provoking summit, with both traditional and emerging vendors sponsoring and some great event party antics.  It seems the identity management space is going from strength to strength, even after being around for over 15 years.  The new challenges of devices, consumers, cloud and mobile are helping to drive innovation in both the vendor and delivery space.

By Simon Moffatt



Gartner Identity Summit London 2015 – Review

This week saw the Gartner Identity and Access Management Summit come to London town.  The event brings together the great and good from the identity community, with a range of vendors, consultancies and identity customers all looking to analyse the current market place and understand the current challenges as well as hot topics that can be applied in 2015 and beyond.

Hitting the Right Notes

The main keynote from the external speaker, was from the highly talented classical musician Miha Pogacnik.  Miha delivered an inspirational 60 minute talk, translating the components of classical music into the realm of business transformation.  He focused on organisational change and all the various different angles of repetition, aggression, questioning and responding that occur and the new challenges it places on organisations, whilst playing a piece of Bach on his violin!  Fantastic.



Consumers Have Identities Too

From a strategic identity perspective, there were several presentations on the developing need for consumer identity management. Many organisations are embracing digital transformation in both the private and public sector, defining use cases and requirements for things like consumer registration, authentication and multi-factor authentication, all done within a highly scalable yet simple identity management framework.

Traditional identity management platforms, products and delivery approaches, are often focused on small scale, repeatable use cases that focus on employees and workflow and don't require the scale or rapid time to delivery that consumer facing projects need.

Gartner's Lori Robinson went through the journey of differences between customer and employee identity management and how features such as consumer registration, map neatly to core provisioning and synchronization use cases, whilst features such as authentication are being extended to include things like adaptive risk, device finger printing and the use of one time passwords to help improve security when high value consumer transactions take place, such as address changes.

The Identity of Things Headache

Another emerging area that not only Gartner, but many consultants and customers were talking about, was that of applying identity patterns to devices and things.  Whilst there has been the initial hype of consumer focused things - such as fitness trackers, fridge monitors and so on - there is a great and developing need for identity and access patterns to the manufacturing space, utilities, SCADA and energy sectors.  Many devices are low powered and have limited cryptographic processing capabilities, but still require registration and linking use cases to be fulfilled as well as having the data their generate to be protected.

The linking, relationship building and data privacy concerns of the newly emerging internet of things landscape, requires heavy doses of identity and access management medicine to make them sustainable.

Newer emerging standards such as OpenID Connect and User Managed Access were the main focus of the coffee chatter and how they can provide federated authorization capabilities to both people and things based infrastructures.


Overall it was a well attended and thought provoking summit, with both traditional and emerging vendors sponsoring and some great event party antics.  It seems the identity management space is going from strength to strength, even after being around for over 15 years.  The new challenges of devices, consumers, cloud and mobile are helping to drive innovation in both the vendor and delivery space.

By Simon Moffatt



Top 5 Security Predictions for 2015

January can't go by without another set of prediction blogs coming our way. Be that for lifestyle, how to lose weight, how to gain weight, how to change our lives and so on.  I thought I would join the band wagon and jot down what I think will be the top 5 challenges facing organisations from a security perspective this year.  If I'm being diligent enough, I may even review it come December (only if I'm right of course...).

Customer Identity Management Will Keep CIO's Awake at Night

Many organisations are going through digital transformation processes.  Be that public sector departments wanting to streamline areas such as taxation, driving license management or health care, through to private sector organisations looking to reduce costs or open new market opportunities.

Digital initiatives are everywhere.  Don't believe me? Check out how many CDO (Chief Digital Officers) now exist on LinkedIn - over 3000 in the UK alone.  These new approaches to product and service delivery, require a strong hold on the identity and access management requirements of customers.  Customer registration, authentication, two-factor authentication and device finger printing, are just a few of the topics hitting the to do list of many CISO's and CIO's - all services that suddenly need rolling out to potentially millions of end users.  Big scale and big headaches will result, if a modular and scalable identity platform isn't available.


Water Cooler Chat Will Be All About Device Security and Internet of Things Madness

By now, everyone has an automated toilet, with a mood influenced flush, that instantly publishes the meta data to Twitter right?  Perhaps not, but there is no doubting, that the Internet of Things landscape is maturing rapidly and the identity of things (shameless blog plug) is going to be a huge area for device manufacturers, services providers and end users.

IoT systems and devices, have all been about communications and interoperability so far.  Adding communications services to low power and low capacity devices brings new opportunities for things like home automation, smart cities, smart cars and more.  However, as these devices collect, store and distribute data to brokers and cloud services, data privacy becomes a huge concern, especially if the data contains production plant statistics or personal health information.  The devices, and the ecosystem that supports the delivery of those devices, will need to be coated in a meta layer of security, from registration and authentication services, through to lightweight encryption and signing technology.


Passwords on the Mobile Will Disappear (Ok not entirely..)

Passwords are dead. Long live the passwords.  I think this topic has been the most written about in blog history.  Ever.  Ok, perhaps not quite ever, but the number of column inches dedicated to the next big thing in password-less authentication / how passwords can't die / how passwords will die is quite remarkable.  One thing for sure, is that the number of users accessing web content and apps via mobile devices (be that phones or tablets) is continuing to rise and outstrip the need for desktops significantly.  What that does of course, is increase the desire for less reliance on password based authentication on mobile tech.  It's simply too inconvenient and too insecure.  As mobile devices build out easier to use secure elements, the storage of crypto materials, session tokens, refresh tokens and other authentication data, will allow for the proliferation of protocols such as OAuth2 or crypto related authentication schemes, to take precedence over the traditional username and password approach.


Employees Will Want Access to More Cloud Services

Many organisations are at a cross roads when it comes to cloud services.  Many want to embrace new, as-a-service based components such as HR, payroll, collaboration and office automation systems.  They are often very simple to register and pay for, simple to set up and allow the organisation to concentrate on their key competency areas.  This does however, bring strong challenges with regards to employee provisioning and single sign on to external services.  Employees do not want to have to remember new and different usernames and passwords to access Google Apps, Salesforce or HR Factors.  Single sign on is mandatory for user convenience, as is the ability to create and remove users in a streamlined and automated fashion, using provisioning systems deeply integrated to HR rules and business logic.  These new requirements can put strain on already buckling legacy provisioning and access management systems, that were often conceived and implemented long before the 'cloud' was cool.


Consumers Will Want More Control and Transparency Over Their Data

This last one is interesting.  I don't think this is suddenly a new requirement or concern for 2015. I think it has always been the case, that consumers are very keen to keep their on line identity secure, their banking details safe and their national insurance or social security number locked up.  However, as more and more devices require and process our personal data, end users are becoming more enlightened with regards to how their data is used and stored.

The Internet of Things takes this to a new level, with many more services, apps and devices wanting to consume, process and potentially redistribute personal data.  End users want to have a clear, simple and transparent method of not only sharing data, but also having the ability to revoke previously granted access to personal data.  We are probably some way off this being a reality, but protocols such as OAuth2 and User Managed Access can go some way to help fulfil these newer requirements.

By Simon Moffatt



Top 5 Security Predictions for 2015

January can't go by without another set of prediction blogs coming our way. Be that for lifestyle, how to lose weight, how to gain weight, how to change our lives and so on.  I thought I would join the band wagon and jot down what I think will be the top 5 challenges facing organisations from a security perspective this year.  If I'm being diligent enough, I may even review it come December (only if I'm right of course...).

Customer Identity Management Will Keep CIO's Awake at Night

Many organisations are going through digital transformation processes.  Be that public sector departments wanting to streamline areas such as taxation, driving license management or health care, through to private sector organisations looking to reduce costs or open new market opportunities.

Digital initiatives are everywhere.  Don't believe me? Check out how many CDO (Chief Digital Officers) now exist on LinkedIn - over 3000 in the UK alone.  These new approaches to product and service delivery, require a strong hold on the identity and access management requirements of customers.  Customer registration, authentication, two-factor authentication and device finger printing, are just a few of the topics hitting the to do list of many CISO's and CIO's - all services that suddenly need rolling out to potentially millions of end users.  Big scale and big headaches will result, if a modular and scalable identity platform isn't available.


Water Cooler Chat Will Be All About Device Security and Internet of Things Madness

By now, everyone has an automated toilet, with a mood influenced flush, that instantly publishes the meta data to Twitter right?  Perhaps not, but there is no doubting, that the Internet of Things landscape is maturing rapidly and the identity of things (shameless blog plug) is going to be a huge area for device manufacturers, services providers and end users.

IoT systems and devices, have all been about communications and interoperability so far.  Adding communications services to low power and low capacity devices brings new opportunities for things like home automation, smart cities, smart cars and more.  However, as these devices collect, store and distribute data to brokers and cloud services, data privacy becomes a huge concern, especially if the data contains production plant statistics or personal health information.  The devices, and the ecosystem that supports the delivery of those devices, will need to be coated in a meta layer of security, from registration and authentication services, through to lightweight encryption and signing technology.


Passwords on the Mobile Will Disappear (Ok not entirely..)

Passwords are dead. Long live the passwords.  I think this topic has been the most written about in blog history.  Ever.  Ok, perhaps not quite ever, but the number of column inches dedicated to the next big thing in password-less authentication / how passwords can't die / how passwords will die is quite remarkable.  One thing for sure, is that the number of users accessing web content and apps via mobile devices (be that phones or tablets) is continuing to rise and outstrip the need for desktops significantly.  What that does of course, is increase the desire for less reliance on password based authentication on mobile tech.  It's simply too inconvenient and too insecure.  As mobile devices build out easier to use secure elements, the storage of crypto materials, session tokens, refresh tokens and other authentication data, will allow for the proliferation of protocols such as OAuth2 or crypto related authentication schemes, to take precedence over the traditional username and password approach.


Employees Will Want Access to More Cloud Services

Many organisations are at a cross roads when it comes to cloud services.  Many want to embrace new, as-a-service based components such as HR, payroll, collaboration and office automation systems.  They are often very simple to register and pay for, simple to set up and allow the organisation to concentrate on their key competency areas.  This does however, bring strong challenges with regards to employee provisioning and single sign on to external services.  Employees do not want to have to remember new and different usernames and passwords to access Google Apps, Salesforce or HR Factors.  Single sign on is mandatory for user convenience, as is the ability to create and remove users in a streamlined and automated fashion, using provisioning systems deeply integrated to HR rules and business logic.  These new requirements can put strain on already buckling legacy provisioning and access management systems, that were often conceived and implemented long before the 'cloud' was cool.


Consumers Will Want More Control and Transparency Over Their Data

This last one is interesting.  I don't think this is suddenly a new requirement or concern for 2015. I think it has always been the case, that consumers are very keen to keep their on line identity secure, their banking details safe and their national insurance or social security number locked up.  However, as more and more devices require and process our personal data, end users are becoming more enlightened with regards to how their data is used and stored.

The Internet of Things takes this to a new level, with many more services, apps and devices wanting to consume, process and potentially redistribute personal data.  End users want to have a clear, simple and transparent method of not only sharing data, but also having the ability to revoke previously granted access to personal data.  We are probably some way off this being a reality, but protocols such as OAuth2 and User Managed Access can go some way to help fulfil these newer requirements.

By Simon Moffatt



OpenDJ Contact Manager for Android

With OpenDJ 2.6.0, we’ve introduced a new way to access your directory data, using HTTP, REST and JSon. The REST to LDAP service, available either embedded in the OpenDJ server or as a standalone web application, is designed to facilitate the work of application developers. And to demonstrate the interest and the ease of use of that service, we’ve built a sample application for Android : the OpenDJ Contact Manager

OpenDJ Contact Manager Android AppAbout screen of the OpenDJ Contact Manager Android App

The OpenDJ Contact Manager is an open source Android application that was built by Violette, one of the ForgeRock engineer working in the OpenDJ team. You can get the source code from the SVN repository : https://svn.forgerock.org/commons/mobile/contact-manager/trunk. Mark wrote some quite complete documentation for the project, with details on how to get and build the application. He published it at http://commons.forgerock.org/mobile/contact-manager/.

The whole application is just about 4000 lines of code, and most of it is dealing with the display itself. But you can find code that deals with asynchronous calls to the OpenDJ rest interface, with paging through results, and parsing the resulting JSON stream to populate the Contacts, including photos. Et voila :

OpenDJ Contact Manager displaying a Contact

The application is just a sample but it clearly is usable in its current form and will allow once a contact was retrieved from the OpenDJ directory, to add it to the Contacts standard application, call the person, locate its address on maps, send the person an email, navigate through the management chain…

In future versions, we are planning to add support for OAuth 2.0, removing the need to store credentials in the application settings.

As it’s open source, feel free to play with it, hack and contribute back your changes.


Filed under: Directory Services Tagged: Android, directory-server, ForgeRock, identity, java, Json, ldap, Mobile, opendj, opensource, REST

OAuth2 – The Passwordless World of Mobile

Keeping in vogue with the fashion of killing off certain standards, technology or trends, I think it's an easy one to say, that the life of the desktop PC (and maybe even the laptop...) is coming to an end.
Smartphone sales are in the hundreds of millions per quarter and each iteration of both the iOS and Android operating system brag of richer user experiences and more sophisticated storage and app integration.  The omnipresent nature of these powerful mini-computers, has many profound benefits, uses and user benefits.



Mobile Weakness + Password Weakness = Nightmare!

With anything in the information world that is popular, comes with it security weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  The popularity aspect is a big trigger for the generation of malware and criminal intent.  As a malware developer, you would want the reward ration to be as high as possible, which means developing exploits for devices and operating systems that are the most popular.  Some key aspects of all mobile devices however result in general security weakness.  Firstly, they're small, meaning they can be easily lost or stolen.  That weakness is pretty difficult to overcome.  Unfortunately as mobiles now hold significant personal and professional information, emails, attachments, cached passwords and so on, a physical loss can have significant impact.  Most mobile devices carry no real form of anti-virus or anti-malware software, albeit this is improving.

Passwords as we know, are now not regarded as a secure means to protect websites and applications.  End users don't tend to select complex passwords (if they do they are written down...) and the transport and storage of such passwords (lack of encrypted channels, passwords not hashed in storage) all contribute to more instances of password leaks and compromise.

Password use on mobile phones, then introduces a mixture of potential vulnerabilities.  Mobile users want to access protected applications, social networking sites and web sites, all with email address and password based authentication.

Mobile keyboards are small, so many will simply enter the credentials once and cache them, leaving them vulnerable to reuse and capture if the device is lost or the operating system compromised.


Introduce OAuth2

OAuth2 (not to be confused with OAuth or OATH...) is making great strides in being the defacto standard authorization protocol, for web applications and modern federated services.  OAuth2 provides a neat access and refresh token approach to giving access to sites and services, which can reduce the burden of using static username and password based authentication and authorisation.  At a high level, OAuth2, can issue both an access token and refresh token, along with what is known as a scope.

The access token does what it says, and generally has a small lifespan - perhaps only a few minutes. The refresh token on the other hand, may have a longer lifespan and can be exchanged for a new access token in the future, without the need to re-enter usernames or passwords.  The benefit being, that the OAuth2 authorization server, can revoke the refresh token if the device that holds it, is compromised or lost. A significant improvement on having to reset passwords if a mobile is lost and contains cached passwords.  The scope aspect is simply a list of permission attributes that the authorisation server attaches to the associated access token before releasing to the requesting resource.

OAuth2 provides several different mechanisms for releasing tokens (called grants) which I wont go into here, but ultimately there is less reliance on the repeated entry of usernames and passwords.  The use of tokens removes the need for the caching of such credentials and also does not require credential exchange between the authorisation service and the protected resource.

By being able to remotely revoke an access or refresh token, gives the identity owner much more control in the event that a physical device is lost, stolen or compromised.

In addition, as passwords would be required less, more complex passwords can be used (created using generators) in order to provide a little more protection.

By Simon Moffatt





OAuth2 – The Passwordless World of Mobile

Keeping in vogue with the fashion of killing off certain standards, technology or trends, I think it's an easy one to say, that the life of the desktop PC (and maybe even the laptop...) is coming to an end.
Smartphone sales are in the hundreds of millions per quarter and each iteration of both the iOS and Android operating system brag of richer user experiences and more sophisticated storage and app integration.  The omnipresent nature of these powerful mini-computers, has many profound benefits, uses and user benefits.



Mobile Weakness + Password Weakness = Nightmare!

With anything in the information world that is popular, comes with it security weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  The popularity aspect is a big trigger for the generation of malware and criminal intent.  As a malware developer, you would want the reward ration to be as high as possible, which means developing exploits for devices and operating systems that are the most popular.  Some key aspects of all mobile devices however result in general security weakness.  Firstly, they're small, meaning they can be easily lost or stolen.  That weakness is pretty difficult to overcome.  Unfortunately as mobiles now hold significant personal and professional information, emails, attachments, cached passwords and so on, a physical loss can have significant impact.  Most mobile devices carry no real form of anti-virus or anti-malware software, albeit this is improving.

Passwords as we know, are now not regarded as a secure means to protect websites and applications.  End users don't tend to select complex passwords (if they do they are written down...) and the transport and storage of such passwords (lack of encrypted channels, passwords not hashed in storage) all contribute to more instances of password leaks and compromise.

Password use on mobile phones, then introduces a mixture of potential vulnerabilities.  Mobile users want to access protected applications, social networking sites and web sites, all with email address and password based authentication.

Mobile keyboards are small, so many will simply enter the credentials once and cache them, leaving them vulnerable to reuse and capture if the device is lost or the operating system compromised.


Introduce OAuth2

OAuth2 (not to be confused with OAuth or OATH...) is making great strides in being the defacto standard authorization protocol, for web applications and modern federated services.  OAuth2 provides a neat access and refresh token approach to giving access to sites and services, which can reduce the burden of using static username and password based authentication and authorisation.  At a high level, OAuth2, can issue both an access token and refresh token, along with what is known as a scope.

The access token does what it says, and generally has a small lifespan - perhaps only a few minutes. The refresh token on the other hand, may have a longer lifespan and can be exchanged for a new access token in the future, without the need to re-enter usernames or passwords.  The benefit being, that the OAuth2 authorization server, can revoke the refresh token if the device that holds it, is compromised or lost. A significant improvement on having to reset passwords if a mobile is lost and contains cached passwords.  The scope aspect is simply a list of permission attributes that the authorisation server attaches to the associated access token before releasing to the requesting resource.

OAuth2 provides several different mechanisms for releasing tokens (called grants) which I wont go into here, but ultimately there is less reliance on the repeated entry of usernames and passwords.  The use of tokens removes the need for the caching of such credentials and also does not require credential exchange between the authorisation service and the protected resource.

By being able to remotely revoke an access or refresh token, gives the identity owner much more control in the event that a physical device is lost, stolen or compromised.

In addition, as passwords would be required less, more complex passwords can be used (created using generators) in order to provide a little more protection.

By Simon Moffatt





The Road To Identity Relationship Management

The Problems With Identity & Access Management

I am never a fan of being the bearer of dramatic bad news - "this industry is dead!", "that standard is dead!", "why are you doing it that way, that is so 2001!".  Processes, industries and technologies appear, evolve and sometimes disappear at their own natural flow.  If a particular problem and the numerous solutions are under discussion, it probably means at some point, those solutions seemed viable.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  With respect to identity and access management, I have seen the area evolve quite rapidly in the last 10 years, pretty much the same way as the database market, the antivirus market, the business intelligence market, the GRC market and so on.  They have all changed.  Whether for the better or worse, is open for discussion, but in my opinion that is an irrelevant discussion, as that is the market which exists today.  You either respond to it, or remove yourself from it.



Like most middleware based sectors, identity and access management has become a complex, highly optimized monster.  Tools on top of tools, to help you get the most out of tools you purchased long ago and sit at the bottom of the stack.  Projects are long and complex.  Milestones blurred.  Stakeholders come from different spectrums of the organisation, with differing goals and drivers.  Vendors have consolidated and glued together complex suites of legacy solutions, built on different frameworks and with different goals in mind.  The end result?  A confused customer and a raft of splinter point products that claim to offer speed and cost improvements to existing 'legacy' solutions.


The Modern Enterprise

I blogged recently about the so called 'modern' enterprise, and how it has evolved to include facets from the mobile, social and outsourced worlds.  Organisations have faced tremendous issues since 2008 when it comes to profitability, with shrinking markets, lower revenues and more stringent internal cost savings.  All of which, have placed pressure on identifying new and more effective revenue streams, either from developing new products faster, or by extracting more revenue from existing customers, by leveraging company brand and building better, more online focused relationships.  All of these avenues of change, rely heavily on identity management.  Firstly, by allowing things like online client registration to occur rapidly and seamlessly, right through to allowing new approaches such as mobile and cloud to be integrated into a single revenue focused platform.

The long and winding identity road - image taken by Simon Moffatt, New South Wales, AU. 2011
Gone are the days when identity management was simply focused on managing employee access to the corporate directory and email server.  Organisations are now borderless, with a continually connected workforce.  That workforce is also not simply focused on employees either.  The modern enterprise workforce, will contain contractors, freelancer and even consumers themselves.  Bloggers, reviewers, supporters, promoters, content sharers and affiliates, whilst not on the company payroll, help drive revenue through messaging and interaction.  If a platform exists where their identity can be harnessed, a new more agile go to market approach can be developed.


Scale, Agility and Engagement

But what does this all mean practically?  New widgets, more sprockets and full steam ahead on the agitator!  Well not quite.  It does require a new approach.  Not a revolution but evolution.  Modernity in all levels, seems to mean big.  Big data.  Big pipes.  Big data centres.  Scale is a fundamental component of modern identity.  Scale, too can come in many different flavours.  Numbers yes.  Can you accommodate a million client registrations?  What about the process, flows and user interfaces that will be needed to manage such scale?  Modularity is key here.  A rigid, prescribed system will result in a rigid and prescribed service.  Flexibility and a loosely decoupled approach will allow system and user interface integration in a much more reusable way.  Languages, frameworks and standards are now much less about vendor sponsorship and much more about usability and longevity.  Modern identity is really about improving engagement, not just at the individual level, but also at the object and device level.  Improved engagement will result in better relationships and ultimately more informed decision making.

Ultimately economics is based fundamentally on clear, fully informed decision making, and if a modern enterprise can develop a service to fully inform and engage its client base, new revenue opportunities will sharply follow.