Tuesday Dec 22, 2009

My Christmas Wish List: Personal Identity-Persona Service

christmas_wish_list It is almost Christmas Eve.  In the midst of an insomnia episode, I conjured up a crazy notion of making a Christmas wish list of things I want from a Personal Identity-Persona Service (PIPS).   Your list may be different, but here’s mine.

  1. Secure Identity Bank Vault for my Identity Profile and Credentials.  Of all the potential Identity Providers jostling for prominence in the market, I favor my bank the most.  They take pretty good care of my money, enable me to selectively send some of my money to other people, and seem to be sensitive to the issues surrounding security, privacy, liability and potential cyber threats.  I think I could trust them to take good care of my online Identity.  Think of it as the bank providing a safe deposit box for all the Identity attributes that I want to store and use, and providing the means to selectively take out Identity attributes for presentation to other people.  This vault should be located in a secure cloud, so I can get access from any computer or mobile device of my choice.  I think this is a concept even my technology-challenged wife, mother and father could readily understand and accept. 
  2. Really Easy to use Identity/Profile/Persona Editor.  With my Secure Identity Bank Vault in place, I need a really easy to use way to fill that vault with my Identity information and maintain it over time.  This will include the information I would normally include provide to an online merchant or social network, as well as subsets of such information that I can define for the purpose of presenting different personae to facilitate different online experiences.
  3. Multiple Levels of Identity Assurance or Validation.  I want to make sure that other people can’t impersonate me by setting up a  fake Identity Bank Vault for Mark Dixon that could be used to conduct illicit transactions.  To do that, methods need to be in place to validate the claims I make about my identity, such as birthplace, social security number, credit card numbers, etc.  Progressively rigorous checks of my background information will allow me to confidently present Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum Identity credentials to enable different levels of online interaction.
  4. Really Easy to use Persona Selector.  I need the ability to easily select from a set of personae I have defined in the Identity Bank Vault.   For example, I will most likely have one persona to use for online shopping, one for interaction with state government, and another for using my church website.  This selector needs to be immediately accessible, probably in the browser toolbar.  For mobile use, the persona selector needs to be easily accessed and presented by any online application that requires me to log in or pay for services.
  5. Multiple Levels of Secure Authentication.  I want to make sure that no one can access and use my Identity Bank Vault or persona and credentials it contains without my explicit permission.  In some cases, I may want to simply surf the web and virtually window shop by identifying myself with a user name and password.  However, I would like to restrict access to any financial transactions or health care record access by requiring a digital certificate (probably on a USB fob) and perhaps with a fingerprint check (perhaps via that same USB device).
  6. Option to Use Separate Personae for Login and Payment.  In some cases, I may want to use an Internet Persona to poke around the web, do some window shopping and try things out.  I may want to log in to Amazon, eBay, Barnes and Noble or other merchants before I decide to buy.  None of these merchants needs to know my credit card information before I decide to buy something.  Therefore, I need an easy method for first identifying myself and subsequently presenting my payment method.
  7. Audit Reports.  I would like to get an online “Identity bank statement” each month or on demand, detailing the my use of PIPS service.  This would allow me to verify that all uses were legitimate and would help me determine if adjustments were needed in my profile or use of the service.
  8. Fraud Insurance.  If a privacy breach or other unauthrorized use of my Identity or credentials occur through no fault of my own, I would like to be insured against possible damages.  This would be similar to the fraud protection currently provided by credit card companies.

Of course, in order for a PIPS service to be worth much, social Networks, online merchants, government agencies and other relying parties will need to accept my PIPS profile and credentials.   But wouldn’t it be great if I could maintain one set of Identity and Profile information and have that available for consumption by any merchant or social network, according to my wishes?  I would be willing to pay a yearly fee for such a service, much like I pay certain bank fees now. Or, perhaps those fees would be waived if I maintained a certain account balance or averaged a certain transaction volume on a credit card issued by the bank.

Will something like this happen?  I think so.  Probably not in 2010.  By 2015? I certainly hope so.

Wednesday Oct 07, 2009

Identity Trend 5: Roles and Attributes

imageThis post is the fifth in a series of eleven posts I am writing about trends in the Identity Management industry.  

The use of roles for identity provisioning and audit compliance has seen growing acceptance in production systems.  Enterprises are getting more value in both operational efficiency and streamlining compliance efforts by leveraging business  roles.  Role management can support compliance efforts even if full automated provisioning is not in place. 

Experience has shown that using a fairly modest number of roles relative to the size of the user population is most effective, rather than engineering and trying to maintain a large number of roles to take care of all circumstances.  A blend of role- and rule-based provisioning appears to strike the right balance.

As roles are implemented, good governance methods are essential to oversee the entire role management life cycle, just as governance over the complete Identity management life cycle in needed.  The governance structure over both life cycles should be closely integrated.

Some companies are finding a broader use of roles than realized at first.  Roles may have been first engineered to drive role-based access control and compliance enforcement, but can also be used for such things are evaluating organization and infrastructure effectiveness.

Attribute-based access control (ABAC) is emerging as a possible alternative to role-based access control (RBAC), particularly for large, complex organizations such as government entities.  This has led some people to predict that ABAC will replace RBAC.  However, if we consider that roles are really a form of attributes attached to Identities, we could predict that the two methods will converge – with the best approach being a balance that leverages roles where appropriate, and attribute-driven rules where that approach makes sense.

Recommendations:

Consider questions such as the following:

  1. Where can roles be leveraged to improve the effectiveness of your Identity provisioning and compliance system?
  2. What is the right balance for your organization in the number of roles and the rules that complement the roles?
  3. How can you effectively govern both the Identity life cycle and role life cycle in your organization?
  4. Are there ways you can leverage the role infrastructure you have adopted in other ways besides RBAC and compliance?
  5. Can emerging methods such as ABAC bring further efficiencies to your operation?

By the way, the stack of hats shown above served to represent different roles or personae a person may possess in a tongue-in-cheek blog post I posted earlier this year: Have a Token: ID Hats and Personae.   I liked Dave Kearn’s perceptive comment to that blog: “Good analogy Mark, but I'm afraid that those of us who understand the phrase ‘to wear different hats’ are getting grayer, plumper and more forgetful every day! People just don't wear a good homburg, Stetson or Panama any more....”

About

Discovering Identity was founded on blogs.sun.com in May 2005 as a means of documenting my exploration of the field of Identity and Access Management. In February, 2010, I switched to hosting the blog at DiscoveringIdentity.com. In March 2012, I began posting Oracle-related information in both places.

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The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Oracle Corporation, or any other person or organization.

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