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The Next Trust Infrastructure: Securing Mashups

Created: 08 Mar 2009 • Updated: 08 Aug 2012
nicolas_popp's picture
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There is no doubt that mashups will be an important construct of the next Internet. The ability to "compose" distributed Web services into one single aggregate service or view is a significant enabler. The lightweightness of HTML and JavaScript speak to the simplicity of a successful programming model. Add to this the emergence of open standards like OAuth, and the need to distribute functionality across screen boundaries (PC, mobile and IP TV), and the picture becomes very clear; mashups and widgets are likely lead the componentization of the Web and become an important distribution mechanism.

For mashups to become ubiquitous, a trust infrastructure is needed. To establish trust between a widget aggregator (a consumer portal, the enterprise portal or your homepage or TV screen), and a widget provider, protocols like OAuth essentially rely on the exchange of shared secrets. This works well when there are only a few big portals serving as aggregators. However, because they require pair-wise trust relationships, the approach does not scale to a truly distributed environment. In particular, the model breaks very quickly in the enterprise as the number of network end-points (enterprise portals and SAAS) explodes.
Ravi Ganesan and his new company SafeMashup may have found the answer to this thorny problem. Ravis' answer is brilliantly simple: reuse the existing and proven trust infrastructure of the Web. Indeed, SafeMashup enables existing CAs to issue credentials to mashers and mashees. These credentials are identical to the one they issue to Web sites today. Because Web 2.0 protocols such as OAuth require a shared secret, Ravi uses the SSL handshake and the issued SSL certificate as a secure method to establish a shared secret between the masher and the mashee. This approach allows him to layer SSL and certificates on top of the Web 2.0 protocols without requiring any change to these protocols. Brilliant!

There is no doubt that broad deployment of mashups requires an open, standard-based scalable trust infrastructure. Reusing the existing PKI infrastructures and its rugged SSL cousin strikes me as a very good idea! After all, when the wheel works, why reinvent the wheel. So, "bonne chance" to Ravi and SafeMashup. Indeed, there is something truly exciting brewing in San Antonio, Texas.