Why OpenID leads to CardSpace…

The recent announcements about OpenID made enough impact that I&#39ve had a number of people ask what our interest in OpenID means for Information Cards in general and CardSpace in particular.

The answer is simple.  OpenID provides Single Sign On to social networking sites and blogs.  It means we can use a public personna across sites, and just log in once to use that persona.

But OpenID doesn&#39t have the privacy characteristics that would make it suitable for government applications or casual web surfing.  And it doesn&#39t have the security characteristics necessary for financial transactions or access to private data.  In other words, its good for a specific set of purposes, and we are interested in it for those purposes, but we remain as committed to more secure and privacy-oriented technologies as ever.  In other words, we are interested in OpenID as part of a spectrum.

Information Cards are a way of safely organizing a palette of digital identities into a “digital wallet”.  Over time, some of these identities will be very valuable, controlling access to government information, bank accounts, and corporate resources.  Other identities will be very private, like those associated with health information or perhaps dating.  Others will be the kind of public personas we are talking about with OpenID.

These different identities will co-exist in a metasystem with contextual separation but a similar use model.  Importantly, the metasystem won&#39t replace the underlying technologies – it will unify them and provide a consistent experience. 

The relation between OpenID and CardSpace provides a good example of the issues involved here.   OpenID provides convenience and power but suffers the problem of all the Single Sign On technologies – the more it succeeds, the more dramatically phishable it will become.  I&#39ve created a visual demo to help explain how this works - and how CardSpace works with OpenID to solve the problems.

My takeaway is that OpenID leads to CardSpace.  I don&#39t mean by this that Information Cards replace OpenID.  I just mean that the more people start using cross-site identities, the more the capabilities of CardSpace become relevant as a way of strengthening OpenID and put it in a broader technology context.  

Information Cards were created to put in place an infrastructure that can solve the security problems of the web before they explode in our faces.  It&#39s a serious technology and involves secure high-strength products emerging across the industry.  The recent announcement by Higgins of the new user-centric identity framework for Eclipse  is a great sign of the progress being made.  And there are other important announcements coming as well.

[In this demo I use my favorite OpenID provider, which is myOpenID.com.  It is super important to point out that I think the company is great.  None of my analysis is a critique of myOpenID – I&#39m explaining some of the “browser-redirect” problems that face all OpenID providers (as well as SAML and Shibboleth providers). Importantly, myOpenID have supported Information Cards for a long time – and their implementation works well.  So they are at the forefront of working these problems.  Try using their Information Card solution.]

OSIS User-Centric Identity Interop at Catalyst Europe

OSIS conducted the third in our series of User-Centric Identity Interop events last week at the Burton Group Catalyst conference in Barcelona. 

As in San Francisco, the Burton Group hosted and provided support for the event, and in this posting, analyst and cat herder Bob Blakley reports on what was accomplished:

There were a few differences between the Barcelona interop and the earlier event held at Catalyst North America 2007.   The most noticeable difference is that the Barcelona interop has been conducted entirely in public.  You can visit the Interop wiki to see details of the organization, planning, use cases, and participants; if you’re in a hurry, though, I’ll summarize here.

Fourteen projects and organizations participated; you can see the list here.

The participants tested 6 identity selectors, 13 identity providers, and 24 relying parties.  The Barcelona interop added a significant amount of testing of OpenID interoperability; 6 OpenID providers and 5 OpenID relying parties participated.

The participants have posted their results on the wiki, and a few words are in order about these results.  The first thing you’ll notice is that there are a significant number of “failure” and “issue” results.  This is very good news for two reasons.

The first reason it’s good news is that it means enough new test cases were designed for this interop to uncover new problems.  What you don’t see in the matrix is that when testing began, there were even more failures – which means that a lot of the new issues identified during the exercise have already been fixed.

The second reason the “failure” and “issue” results are good news is that they’re outnumbered by the successes.  When you consider that the things tested in Barcelona were all identified as problems at the previous interop, you’ll get an idea of how much work has been done by the OSIS community in only 4 months to improve interoperability and agree on standards of component behavior.

I’d like to call your attention to one more thing.  At the Catalyst North America interop in San Francisco, all the interop participants were onsite, sitting in a room together.

Here in Barcelona, as you can see in the Participant Profile table, about half the participants worked remotely.  What this means in practical terms is that a lot of the components in this interop were accessed over the Internet, in the same configuration you’d use if you deployed them in your business.

I expect that the results table will continue to evolve for a while as additional information from the event is digested and entered into the wiki; I’ll probably post another blog entry with some analysis of the significance of the results after the conference is over and I’ve gotten some sleep.  But my preliminary sense is that this interop continued to demonstrate progress toward an open, deployable, interoperable identity metasystem. Continue reading

MSN and Windows Live hook up InfoCard Beta

Video of Hotmail Beta of Information Cards

In this video of the Windows Live ID beta (1:20) we use Bandit&#39s DigitalMe to register and log into Hotmail from a Mac.  If anyone has been concerned that Information Cards won&#39t scale to handle large sites, they can relax now.  To see another version of the demo, this time using CardSpace, watch this (2:20). 

Start using DigitalMe for Mac

Over the weekend I installed “Digital Me for Mac” on my MacBook Pro and started using it with identityblog and other sites.  It&#39s fast and totally does the trick.  I&#39ve made a micro video demo that gives you an idea of what it&#39s like.

The install worked just as it should.  I ended up with a Bandit managed card – then went on to create a self-issued one so I wouldn&#39t have to enter a password.  So now I can work on my site both from my Mac and my PCs.  I&#39m not sure if it works with Safari – I was using it with Firefox. Continue reading

Mike Jones and self-issued.info

Everyone who has met me has probably met my colleague Mike Jones, who put his work as a researcher at MSR on hold because he got so interested in user-centric identity and Information Cards.  He has now started to blog – check out the InfoCard showing Mike and Dale onstage at Novell Brainshare. 

For those new to Information Cards, you don&#39t normally share an InfoCard with someone else.  This was truly a “they did it because they could” moment… 

On March 21st at Novell’s BrainShare 2007 conference, Dale Olds and I co-presented the session “Who are you? From Directories and Identity Silos to Ubiquitous User-Centric Identity”. Our presentation was a brief history of digital identity solutions, ranging from a password per application to interoperable user-centric digital identity using the Information Card metaphor and several steps in between.

demo self-issued cardThe coolest thing in the session was the first public demo of the Bandit/Higgins cross-platform Identity Selector. During the demo Dale and I both used the same self-issued Information Card (that I created on the BrainShare show floor :-) ) to log into a Bandit relying party site, Dale from Linux and me with Windows CardSpace. As Dale and Pat Felsted blogged, two days later the Bandits also demonstrated their selector running on the Mac. Also see Pat’s post on the Details of the Cross Platform Identity Selector.

Great progress towards enabling everyone to answer the question “Who are you?” online with the Information Card of their choice!

BTW, you&#39ll see that Mike, like me, is using pamelaware for WordPress – and accepts comments through infocards.  If you use WordPress, you should check it out.

Bandits strike at BrainShare

Incredible news from Dale Olds’ VirtualSoul at Novell:

This week was Novell’s Brainshare conference. It’s a big deal for Novell folks and it’s a great event. It gives us a place to show off new technologies like the emerging Internet identity systems and some of the recent work that we have done on the Bandit team.

Our most significant demo this year was shown during the technology preview keynote on Friday. The whole series of demos is interesting — I especially liked some of the Linux desktop stuff — but if you want to just skip to the infocard stuff, it starts at about 40 minutes into the video.

For those who may want to know more detailed information about what the demo actually does, let me give some background information here:

There were 3 new open source components written by Bandits and made available this week:

  • A fully open source, cross platform identity selector service was contributed to Higgins. Written in C++, this Higgins ISS runs as a daemon (no UI) and provides core infocard selector service: it accesses multiple card stores, enumerates available cards, matches cards based on requested claims, and interacts with the appropriate STS to get a token. It is almost complete on support for personal cards, with an internal STS, etc. The real deal.
  • A UI process for the Higgins ISS. It is currently written in C#, runs on Mono, and leverages much of the management UI of the CASA component of Bandit.
  • A new OpenID context provider was contributed to Higgins. This context provider plugs into the Higgins IdAS and allows identity data to be accessed from any OpenID Provider. What this means is that, with no change to the Higgins STS code (since the STS uses IdAS), we could set up a demo such that infocards can be generated from any OpenID identity. In other words, using the Higgins STS and the new OpenID context provider, I can access any site that accepts infocards with my openID account.

So what Baber showed in the demo:

  1. A fully functional, native infocard selector running on the Mac.
  2. He accessed a shopping site with an infocard generated from an OpenID account. Put some things in the cart and logged out.
  3. Baber switched to a SUSE Linux Desktop machine. Fully functional infocard selector there as well. Accessed the same site with an OpenID infocard and see stuff in his cart from the Mac session.
  4. Goes to check out. The site asks for a card with different claims, needs a payment card.
  5. The Higgins Infocard selector supports multiple card stores. In this case Baber selects a credit card from a card store on his mobile phone via bluetooth.
  6. He authorizes a (hypothetical) payment and the online shopping site (the relying party) only gets his shipping address and an authorization code from the credit card.

It’s a simple demo, and easy to miss the number of technologies and interactions involved, but this is the kind progress that we have been working towards for a long time.

The Bandits are happy and tired.

Bandit and Higgins hit interop milestone

I was so snowed under trying to work against time for the OpenID annoucement at RSA that I missed blogging another imporant milestone that has been reached by the identity community.  This report on progress in the Higgins and Bandit side of the house is great news for everyone:

The Bandit and Eclipse Higgins Projects today announced the achievement of a key milestone in the development of open source identity services. Based on working code from the two projects and the larger community of open source developers, the teams have created a reference application that showcases open source identity services that are interoperable with Microsoft’s Windows* CardSpace* identity management system and enable Liberty Alliance-based identity federation via Novell® Access Manager. This reference application is a first-of-its-kind open source identity system that features interoperability with leading platforms and protocols. This ground-breaking work will be demonstrated at the upcoming RSA Conference in San Francisco.

“There are two basic requirements for translating the potential of recent identity infrastructure developments into real-world benefits for users: interoperability and a consistent means of developing identity-aware applications,” said Jamie Lewis, CEO and research chair of Burton Group. “First, vendors must deliver on their promise to enable interoperability between different identity systems serving different needs. Second, developers need a consistent means of creating applications that leverage identity while masking many of the underlying differences in those systems from the programmer. The Bandit and Eclipse Higgins interoperability demonstration shows progress on the path toward these goals. And the fact that they are open source software projects increases the potential that the identity infrastructure will emerge as a common, open system for the Internet.”

The Bandit and Higgins projects are developing open source identity services to help individuals and organizations by providing a consistent approach to managing digital identity information regardless of the underlying technology. This reference application leverages the information card metaphor that allows an individual to use different digital identity ‘I-Cards’ to gain access to online sites and services. This is the metaphor used in the Window’s CardSpace identity management system that ships with the Vista* operating system.

“Windows CardSpace is an implementation of Microsoft’s vision of an identity metasystem, which we have promoted as a model for identity interoperability,” said Kim Cameron, architect for identity and access at Microsoft. “It’s rewarding to see the Bandit and Higgins projects, as well as the larger open source community, embracing this concept and delivering on the promise of identity interoperability.”

The open source technology developed by Bandit and Higgins enables initial integration between a non-Liberty Alliance identity system and a Liberty Alliance-based federated identity system provided by Novell Access Manager. Specifically, these technologies enable Novell Access Manager to authenticate a user via a Microsoft infocard (CardSpace) and consume identity information from an external identity system. It will further show that identity information from Novell Access Manager can be used within an infocard system. This is a significant step forward in the integration of separate identity systems to deliver a seamless experience for the user as demonstrated by the reference application.

“The Liberty Alliance project fully supports the development of open source identity services that advance the deployment of Liberty-enabled federation and Web Services as part of the broader Internet identity layer,” said Brett McDowell, executive director of the Liberty Alliance. “The open source community’s embrace of Liberty Alliance protocols is validation of the benefits this technology provides, and we salute the Bandit and Higgins teams for their role in making the technology more broadly accessible.”

Higgins is an open source software project that is developing an extensible, platform-independent, identity protocol-independent software framework to support existing and new applications that give users more convenience, privacy and control over their identity information. The reference application leverages several parts of Higgins including an identity abstraction layer called the Identity Attribute Service (IdAS). To support a dynamic environment where sources of identity information may change, it is necessary to provide a common means to access identity and attribute information from across multiple identity repositories. The IdAS virtualizes identity sources and provides a unified view of identity information. Different identity stores or identity management systems can connect to the IdAS via “context providers” and thus provide interoperability among multiple systems.

“Many groups have been working towards the goals of Internet identity interoperability,” said Paul Trevithick, technology lead for the Higgins project. “This milestone represents a major step in having multiple open source projects work together to support multi-protocol interoperability.”

The Bandit project, sponsored by Novell, is focused on delivering a consistent approach to enterprise identity management challenges, including secure access and compliance reporting. The Bandit team’s contributions to the reference application include the development of multiple “context providers” that plug into the Higgins Identity Attribute Service (IdAS) abstraction layer to provide access to identity information across disparate identity stores. It also showcases the role engine and audit reporting capabilities in development by the Bandit community.

“The development of this reference application would not have been possible without the collaboration and contribution of the wider Internet identity community,” said Dale Olds, Bandit project lead and distinguished engineer for Novell. “This is the first of many milestones we are working towards as both the Bandit and Higgins communities strive to enable interoperable, open source identity services.”

So congratulations to Bandit, Higgins and everyone else who made this happen – this is great stuff, and the identity big bang is one step closer for it.