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Authentication (User) Blog

Meditations in an Analyst Summit

Created: 10 Nov 2009 • Updated: 08 Aug 2012
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Han Dong, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, User Authentication

Greetings VIP Blog fans,

I'm here at the 2009 Gartner Identity & Access Management (IAM) Summit. The day started off with a keynote presented by Earl Perkins, one of the lead Gartner analysts who explained how much IAM has evolved over the years - highlighting the fact that there are several IAM lifecycle elements (Planning, Process, and Problems) to consider and several key business drivers (improving security, reducing risk, and meeting regulatory requirements) in deploying an IAM solution. And at the end of the day, four of the analysts presented as a panel and reviewed the 2009 "Magic Quadrant" (classic Gartner MQ) trends and developments for each of the IAM disciplines in User Provisioning, Web Access Management, Enterprise Single Sign-On (SSO), and Authentication.

One mid-day session titled "Google Case Study: Lessons From Google's IAM Initiatives For Cloud-Based Applications," presented by Eric Sachs, Google Product Manager, was particularly interesting. Eric's presentation covered essentially two topics: Federated login as a Service (or Cloud-based SSO) and Strong Authentication beyond passwords. Eric explained that the challenge of provisioning user accounts, managing multiple logins and passwords, and ensuring strong security and reliability is driving the movement towards a Federated login structure, built on open standards (OAuth and OpenID) and hosted in the cloud to support a host of Software as a Service (SaaS) applications.

With the heavy interest in cloud-computing and hosted applications, both IT vendors and consumers are seeking ways to reduce costs of deployment, speed implementation, and do more with fewer resources at hand. Google, Amazon, Salesforce, and Microsoft are just a handful of the many vendors vying to be the cloud-based app provider of choice. But in the hype, it seems that few vendors have discussed the new breed of security concerns that cloud-based services yield.

Eric's presentation touched on these very security concerns in the new SaaS world. And most importantly, Eric brought up the idea of leveraging "stronger forms of authentication" to mitigate the weak security of simple username and password. "One Time Password (OTP) is the answer!" Two-factor Authentication and OTP are not new technologies. Enterprises have long been using OTP tokens to authenticate users' access to internal networks (via VPN) for years now. But traditionally, OTP credentialed VPNs have been too costly or too resource consuming to manage and deploy. That is, until now - Eric also demonstrated a low-cost OTP credential in the form of a mobile phone software generated OTP. And the iPhone screen-shot Eric displayed on his slide was the VeriSign Identity Protection (VIP) Access for Mobile credential. Eric pointed out a unique feature of the VIP Access for Mobile software was that the key generator resides locally on the mobile phone itself, thus requiring NO network connection as some other products require in order for an OTP key to be sent via SMS or voice.

Here is Eric on stage:(image added 11/11)

Eric Stage_small.jpg

What Eric did not mention during his session, is that behind the VIP Access for Mobile OTP credential lays a trusted VeriSign Identity Protection service entirely hosted by VeriSign. VeriSign allows enterprises to quickly and cost-effectively implement and integrate scalable Strong Authentication services (for VPN or partner and customer communications) for validating user credentials via Web Services APIs that connect to the VIP hosted network.

So what does this mean for the mass of new cloud-based computing enterprises? It means that enterprises can rest assured that not only can they migrate IT apps to the cloud, but they can also secure user access by leveraging a cloud-based Security as a Service with the VeriSign Identity Protection service.

Witnessing a 3rd party (not to mention the fact that we're talking about Google) extol the virtues of YOUR product, unpaid and unsponsored, was really an exciting surprise. And this really was a true coincidence - just by attending the Google breakout session at the Gartner IAM Summit, I saw VeriSign's own Two-factor authentication product in action and being explained by one of the premier thought leaders in the industry. This certainly bodes well for a plethora of future opportunities for Security in the cloud. And I can't wait to watch this all unfold.