Leaving a comment

Since one of my goals is to introduce people to Information Cards – and because I used to get mountains of spam comments and worse (!) - I require people to either write to me or use an Information Card when leaving comments on my blog. 

(This blog is hosted for me by Joyent, and it runs on open source software (WordPress, PHP, MySQL, Apache, OpenSolaris).  For Information Card support, it uses Pamelaware, an open-source project offering an Information Card plugin for WordPress and other popular programs.)

Information Cards use an “identity selector”.  Vista has the CardSpace V1 selector built right in.   (If you  don't use Vista please continue here.   Also, if you are wondering about our new beta of Windows CardSpace Geneva – V2 if you want – I'll deal with that in a separate post.)

How you register at my site

1. Click the Information Card logo or the “LOG IN” option in the upper right hand corner of the blog.  (Clicking the logo saves you the step where you can learn about Information Cards).

 

2. If you clicked the logo, go to step 3.  If you have clicked “LOG IN”, you will see this page and can explore the ‘Learn More’ and other tabs.  When ready, click on the Information Card logo to proceed.

 

3. CardSpace will start (it may be a bit slow the first time it loads).  It will verify my site's certificate, and present it t you so you can decide whether or not to proceed.  Click “Yes, choose a card to send”.

 

4.  If you are trying CardSpace for the first time, you don't have a “Managed” card yet.  So just create a “Personal Card” that serves a bit like a username / password – except it can't be phished and protects your privacy by automatically using a different key at every site. 

 

5. You'll be asked to create a Personal card.  Name it with something you'll recognize, and I recommend you put a picture on it (the picture will never be sent).  The name and picture prevent many attacks since if someone tries to fool you with a CardSpace “look-alike”, they won't know what your Cards look like and you will immediately notice your cards aren't present! 

Use an email address that you control - you will have to respond to a confirmation email.  Then click SAVE.

 

 

6.  Now you'll see your saved card, and click SEND.

 

7.  The information from your card will be used to log in to my site, but I'll notice you haven't been here before and send you an email that you must click on to complete registration (I want some way to prevent spammers from bothering me).

 

8.  The email I send looks like the one below.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  this email might be “eaten” by your spam protection software (!) , so don't overlook your spam folder to find it.  (On Hotmail, it doesn't ever get delivered – haven't sorted that out yet.  It doesn't seem to like my little mail server.)  

9.  When you click the embedded link you'll be taken back to my blog as a verification step.  Click on the Information Card logo to log in.

 

10.  CardSpace will come up, and will recognize my site.  Just click send.

 

11.  Et voila…

Press “Go to Blog” and you can leave your comment.

In the future, logging in will just be a two-step process.  Click on the CardSpace logo, click on your personal card, and you will be logged in.  No password to remember.

 

Project Geneva – Part 5

[This is the fifth - and thankfully the final - installment of a presentation I gave to Microsoft developers at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC 2008) in Los Angeles. It starts here.]

I've made a number of announcements today that I think will have broad industry-wide support not only because they are cool, but because they indelibly mark Microsoft's practical and profound committment to an interoperable identity metasystem that reaches across devices, platforms, vendors, applications, and administrative boundaries. 

I'm very happy, in this context, to announce that from now on, all Live ID's will also work as OpenIDs.   

That means the users of 400 million Live ID accounts will be able to log in to a large number of sites across the internet without a further proliferation of passwords – an important step forward for binging reduced password fatigue to the long tail of small sites engaged in social networking, blogging and consumer services.

As the beta progresses, CardSpace will be integrated into the same offering (there is already a separate CardSpace beta for Live ID).

Again, we are stressing choice of protocol and framework.

Beyond this support for a super lightweight open standard, we have a framework specifically tailored for those who want a very lightweight way to integrate tightly with a wider range of Live capabilities.

The Live Framework gives you access to an efficient, lightweight protocol that we use to optimize exchanges within the Live cloud.

It too integrates with our Gateway. Developers can download sample code (available in 7 languages), insert it directly into their application, and get access to all the identities that use the gateway including Live IDs and federated business users connecting via Geneva, the Microsoft Services Connector, and third party Apps.

 

Flexible and Granular Trust Policy

 Decisions about access control and personalization need to be made by the people responsible for resources and information – including personal information. That includes deciding who to trust – and for what.

At Microsoft, our Live Services all use and trust the Microsoft Federation Gateway, and this is helpful in terms of establishing common management, quality control, and a security bar that all services must meet.

But the claims-based model also fully supports the flexible and granular trust policies needed in very specialized contexts. We already see some examples of this within our own backbone.

For example, we’ve been careful to make sure you can use Azure to build a cloud application – and yet get claims directly from a third party STS using a different third party’s identity framework, or directly from OpenID providers. Developers who take this approach never come into contact with our backbone.

Our Azure Access Control Service provides another interesting example. It is, in fact, a security component that can be used to provide claims about authorization decisions. Someone who wants to use the service might want their application, or its STS, to consume ACS directly, and not get involved with the rest of our backbone. We understand that. Trust starts with the application and we respect that.

Still another interesting case is HealthVault. HealthVault decided from day one to accept OpenIDs from a set of OpenID providers who operate the kind of robust claims provider needed by a service handling sensitive information. Their requirement has given us concrete experience, and let us learn about what it means in practice to accept claims via OpenID. We think of it as pilot, really, from which we can decide how to evolve the rest of our backbone.

So in general we see our Identity Backbone and our federation gateway as a great simplifying and synergizing factor for our Cloud services. But we always put the needs of trustworthy computing first and foremost, and are able to be flexible because we have a single identity model that is immune to deployment details.


Identity Software + Services

To transition to the services world, the identity platform must consist of both software components and services components.

We believe Microsoft is well positioned to help developers in this critical area.

Above all, to benefit from the claims-based model, none of these components is mandatory. You select what is appropriate.

We think the needs of the application drive everything. The application specifies the claims required, and the identity metasystem needs to be flexible enough to supply them.

Roadmap

Our roadmap looks like this:

Identity @ PDC

You can learn more about every component I mentioned today by drilling into the 7 other presentations presented at PDC (watch the videos…):

Software
(BB42) Identity:  “Geneva” Server and Framework Overview
(BB43) Identity: “Geneva” Deep Dive
(BB44) Identity: Windows CardSpace “Geneva” Under the Hood
Services
(BB22) Identity: Live Identity Services Drilldown
(BB29) Identity: Connecting Active Directory to Microsoft Services
(BB28) .NET Services: Access Control Service Drilldown
(BB55) .NET Services: Access Control In the Cloud Services
 

Conclusion

I once went to a hypnotist to help me give up smoking. Unfortunately, his cure wasn’t very immediate. I was able to stop – but it was a decade after my session.

Regardless, he had one trick I quite liked. I’m going to try it out on you to see if I can help focus your take-aways from this session. Here goes:

I’m going to stop speaking, and you are going to forget about all the permutations and combinations of technology I took you through today. You’ll remember how to use the claims based model. You’ll remember that we’ve announced a bunch of very cool components and services. And above all, you will remember just how easy it now is to write applications that benefit from identity, through a single model that handles every identity use case, is based on standards, and puts users in control.

 

Getting down with Zermatt

Zermatt is a destination in Switzerland, shown above, that benefits from what Nietzsche calls “the air at high altitudes, with which everything in animal being grows more spiritual and acquires wings”.

It's therefore a good code name for the new identity application development framework Microsoft has just released in Beta form.  We used to call it IDFX internally  – who knows what it will be called when it is released in final form? 

Zermatt is what you use to develop interoperable identity-aware applications that run on the Windows platform.  We are building the future versions of Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) with it, and claims-aware Microsoft applications will all use it as a foundation.  All capabilities of the platform are open to third party developers and enterprise customers working in Windows environments.  Every aspect of the framework works over the wire with other products on other platforms.

 I can't stress enough how important it is to make it easy for application developers to incororate the kind of sensible and sophisticated capabilities that this framework makes available.  And everyone should understand that our intent is for this platform to interoperate fully with products and frameworks produced by other vendors and open source projects, and to help the capabilities we are developing to become universal.

I also want to make it clear that this is a beta.  The goal is to involve our developer community in driving this towards final release.  The beta also makes it easy for other vendors and projects to explore every nook and cranny of our implementation and advise us of problems or work to achieve interoperability.

I've been doing my own little project using the beta Zermatt framework and will write about the experience and share my code.  As an architect, I can tell you already how happy I am about the extent to which this framework realizes the metasystem architecture we've worked so hard to define.

The product comes with a good White Paper for Developers by Keith Brown of Pluralsight.  Here's how Zermatt's main ReadMe sets out the goals of the framework.

Building claims-aware applications

Zermatt makes it easier to build identity aware applications. In addition to providing a new claims model, it provides applications with a rich set of API’s to reason about the identity of a caller using claims.

Zermatt also provides developers with a consistent programming experience whether they choose to build their applications in ASP.NET or in WCF environments. 

ASP.NET Controls

ASP.NET controls simplify development of ASP.NET pages for building claims-aware Web applications, as well as Passive STS’s.

Building Security Token Services (STS)

Zermatt makes it substantially easier for building a custom security token service (STS) that supports the WS-Trust protocol. These STS’s are also referred to as an Active STS.

In addition, the framework also provides support for building STS’s that support WS-Federation to enable web browser clients. These STS’s are also referred to as a Passive STS.

Creating Information Cards

Zermatt includes classes that you can use to create Information Cards – as well as STS's that support them.

There are a whole bunch of samples, and for identity geeks they are incredibly interesting.  I'll discuss what they do in another post.

Follow the installation instructions!

Meanwhile, go ahead and download.  I'll share one word of advice.  If you want things to run right out of the digital box, then for now slavishly follow the installation instructions.  I'm the type of person who never really looks at the ReadMe's – and I was chastened by the experience of not doing what I was told.  I went back and behaved, and the experience was flawless, so don't make the same mistake I did.

For example, there is a master installation script in the /samples/utilities directory called “SamplesPreReqSetup.bat”. This is a miraculous piece of work that sets up your machine certs automatically and takes care of a great number of security configuration details.  I know it's miraculous because initially (having skipped the readme) I thought I had to do this configuration manually.  Congratulations to everyone who got this to work.

You will also find a script in each sample directory that creates the necessary virtual directory for you.  You need this because of the way you are expected to use the visual studio debugger.

Using the debugger

In order to show how the framework really works, the projects all involve at least a couple of aspx pages (for example, one page that acts as a relying party, and another that acts as an STS).  So you need the ability to debug multiple pages at once.

To do this, you run the pages from a virtual directory as though they were “production” aspx pages.  Then you attach your debugger to the w3wp.exe process (under debug, select “Attach to a process” and make sure you can see all the processes from all the sessions.  “Wake up” the w3wp.exe process by opening a page.  Then you'll see it in the list). 

For now it's best to compile the applications in the directory where they get installed.  It's possible that if you move the whole tree, they can be put somewhere else (I haven't tried this with my own hands).  But if you move a single project, it definitely won't work unless you tweak the virtual directory configuration yourself (why bother?).

Clear samples

I found the samples very clear, and uncluttered with a lot of “sample decoration” that makes it hard to understand the main high level points.  Some of the samples have a number of components working together – the delegation sample is totally amazing – and yet it is easy, once you run the sample, to understand how the pieces fit together.  There could be more documentation and this will appear as the beta progresses. 

The Zermatt team is really serious about collecting questions, feedback and suggestions – and responding to them.  I hope that if you are a developer interested in identity you'll take a look and send your feedback – whether you are primarily a Windows developer or not.  After all, our goal remains the Identity Big Bang, and getting identity deployed and cool applications written on all the different platforms. 

Problem between keyboard and seat

Jeff Bohren picks up on Axel Nennker's recent post:

Axel Nennker points out that the supposed “Cardspace Hack” is still floating around the old media. He allows the issue is not really a Cardspace security hole, but a problem between the keyboards and seats at Ruhr University Bochum:

A while ago two students, Xuan Chen and Christoph Löhr, from Ruhr University Bochum claimed to have “broken” CardSpace. There were some blog reactions to this claim. The authoritative one of course is from Kim.

Today I browsed through a magazine lying on the desk of a colleague of mine. This magazine with the promising title “IT-Security” repeats the false claim and reports that the students proved that CardSpace has severe security flaws… Well, when you switch off all security mechanism then, yes, there are security flaws (The security researcher in front of the computer).

Sort of what developers like me call an ID10T error.

Update: speaking of ID10T errors, I originally mistyped Axel’s name as Alex. My apologies.

Wide coverage of the Information Card Foundation

There has been a lot of coverage of the newly formed Information Card Foundation (ICF) in the last couple of days, including stories by mainstreet publications like the New York Times.  This article by Richard Thurston from SC Magazine gives you a good idea of how accurately some quite technical concepts were interpreted and conveyed by our colleagues in the press.

Google and Microsoft are among an extensive set of technology vendors aiming to spur the adoption of digital identity cards.

The two internet giants have helped form the Information Card Foundation (ICF), which aims to develop technologies to secure digital identities on the internet and which was launched today.

Digital identity cards are the online equivalent of a physical identity card, such as a driver's license. The idea is that internet users will have a virtual wallet containing an array of digital identity cards, and they can choose what information is stored on each card. The aim is to replace usernames and passwords in an effort to improve security.

Alongside Google and Microsoft, large suppliers such as Novell, Oracle, PayPal and financial information company Equifax, have joined the ICF, as well as 18 smaller suppliers and industry associations.

“Our shared goal is to deliver a ubiquitous, interoperable, privacy-respecting federated identity layer as a means to seamless, secure online transactions over network infrastructure,” said Brett McDowell, executive director of Liberty Alliance, one of the founding members.

The idea of digital identities is far from new. But so far vendors’ efforts have been fragmented and largely not interoperable.

The ICF is proposing a system based on three parties: the user, the identity provider (such as a bank or credit card issuer) and also what it calls a reliant party (which could be a university network, financial website or e-commerce website, for example).

The ICF argues that, because all three parties must be synced in real-time for the transaction to proceed, it should be more secure.

“Rather than logging into websites with usernames and passwords, information cards let people ‘click-in’ using a secure digital identity that carries only the specific information needed to enable a transaction,” said Charles Andres, executive director of the ICF. “Businesses will enjoy lower fraud rates, higher affinity with customers, lower risk and more timely information about their customers and business partners.”

The ICF now wants to expand its membership to include businesses, such as retailers and financial institutions, as well as government organizations.

It also wants to become a working group of Identity Commons, a community-driven organization which promotes the creation of an open identity layer for the internet.

You can find thousands of similar links to the Foundation here and here.  Amazing.

Information Card Foundation Formed

It's a great day for Information Cards, Internet security and privacy. I can't put it better than this:

June 24, 2008 – Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, United States – An array of prominent names in the high-technology community today announced the formation of a non-profit foundation, The Information Card Foundation, to advance a simpler, more secure and more open digital identity on the Internet, increasing user control over their personal information while enabling mutually beneficial digital relationships between people and businesses.

Led by Equifax, Google, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, and PayPal, plus nine leaders in the technology community, the group established the Information Card Foundation (ICF) to promote the rapid build-out and adoption of Internet-enabled digital identities using Information Cards.

Information Cards take a familiar off-line consumer behavior – using a card to prove identity and provide information – and bring it to the online world. Information Cards are a visual representation of a personal digital identity which can be shared with online entities. Consumers are able to manage the information in their cards, have multiple cards with different levels of detail, and easily select the card they want to use for any given interaction.

“Rather than logging into web sites with usernames and passwords, Information Cards let people ‘click-in’ using a secure digital identity that carries only the specific information needed to enable a transaction,” said Charles Andres, executive director for the Information Card Foundation. “Additionally, businesses will enjoy lower fraud rates, higher affinity with customers, lower risk, and more timely information about their customers and business partners.”

The founding members of the Information Card Foundation represent a wide range of technology, data, and consumer companies. Equifax, Google, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, and PayPal, are founding members of the Information Card Foundation Board of Directors. Individuals also serving on the board include ICF Chairman Paul Trevithick of Parity, Patrick Harding of Ping Identity, Mary Ruddy of Meristic, Ben Laurie, Andrew Hodgkinson of Novell, Drummond Reed, Pamela Dingle of the Pamela Project, Axel Nennker, and Kim Cameron of Microsoft.

“The creation of the ICF is a welcome development,” said Jamie Lewis, CEO and research chair of Burton Group. “As a third party, the ICF can drive the development of Information Card specifications that are independent of vendor implementations. It can also drive vendor-independent branding that advertises compliance with the specifications, and the behind-the-scenes work that real interoperability requires.”

The Information Card Foundation will support and guide industry efforts to enable the development of an open, trusted and interoperable identity layer for the Internet that maximizes control over personal information by individuals. To do so, the Information Card infrastructure will use existing and emerging data exchange and security protocols, standards and software components.

Businesses and organizations that supply or consume personal information will benefit from joining the Information Card Foundation to improve their trusted relationships with their users. This includes financial institutions, retailers, educational and government institutions, healthcare providers, retail providers, travel, entertainment, and social networks.

The Information Card Foundation will hold interoperability events to improve consistency on the web for people using and managing their Information Cards. The ICF will also promote consistent industry branding that represents interoperability of Information Cards and related components, and will promote identity policies that protect user information. This branding and policy development is designed to give all Internet users confidence that they can exert greater control over personal information released to specific trusted providers through the use of Information Cards.

“Liberty Alliance salutes the open industry oversight of Information Card interoperability that the formation of ICF signifies,” said Brett McDowell, executive director, Liberty Alliance. “Our shared goal is to deliver a ubiquitous, interoperable, privacy-respecting federated identity layer as a means to seamless, secure online transactions over network infrastructure. We look forward to exploring with ICF the expansion of the Liberty Alliance Interoperable(tm) testing program to include Information Card interoperability as well as utilization of the Identity Assurance Framework across Information Card deployments.”

As part of its affiliations with other organizations, The Information Card Foundation has applied to be a working group of Identity Commons, a community-driven organization promoting the creation of an open identity layer for the Internet while encouraging the development of healthy, interoperable communities.

Additional founding members are Arcot Systems,Aristotle, A.T.E. Software, BackgroundChecks.com, CORISECIO, FuGen Solutions, the Fraunhofer Institute, Fun Communications, the Liberty Alliance, Gemalto, IDology, IPcommerce, ooTao, Parity, Ping Identity, Privo, Wave Systems, and WSO2

Further information about the Information Card Foundation can be found at www.informationcard.net.

I enjoy having been invited to join the foundation board as one of the representatives of the identity community, rather than as a corporate representative (Mike Jones will play that role for Microsoft). Beyond the important forces involved, this is a terrific group of people with deep experience, and I look forward to what we can achieve together.

One thing for sure: the Identity Big Bang is closer than ever.  Given the deep synergy between OpenID and Information Cards, we have great opportunities all across the identity spectrum.

Drstarcat on Project Pamela

drstarcat.com is doing “A History of Tomorrow's Internet” – a dive into Information Cards, CardSpace, Higgins and now, in Part Five, The Pamela Project. The “future history” is a personal tale that is definitely worth reading.  The most recent post introduces us to Pamela Dingle herself – a woman who has played a key role - both technically and as a leader - in advancing Information Cards. 

Drstarcat writes:

“As I’ve explained more than once in this blog, a greater problem than finding reliable Identity Providers is getting the websites we know and love to become Relying Parties. That is exactly the problem that Pamela has deemed to attack with her eponymous project. As the project’s mission statement says, “The Pamela Project is a grassroots organization dedicated to providing community support for both technical and non-technical web users and administrators who wish to use or deploy information card technologies.” Given the difficulties I experienced even USING iCards as a non-technical web user, this seems like a pretty ambitious task, and as part of this post, I’m going to try to get my blog up and running. First, a few words about Pamela and the history of the project.

“Pamela first ran into the issues surrounding Identity in her role as a technology consultant in Calgary in 1999. Anyone who’s done any large-scale enterprise software installation has likely had a similar experience–try to do anything and you’ll run into a myriad of (often semi-functional) authentication and directory services before you can even get off the ground. She’d been working on Peoplesoft installations and with Oblix (an enterprise self-service password management tool later acquired by Oracle), when she attended her first Burton Identity conference in 2001. It was here she first began to think of Identity as a (the?) core technology problem, as opposed to something peripheral to what she wanted to get done. It’s a realization that, once had, can become a little consuming (trust me, I spend WAY too much time building software to be blogging about anything–especially, SOFTWARE).

“Her second “ah-ha” moment came when, if my notes serve me correctly, she was “hit on the head with a brick” by Kim Cameron at the 2002 Catalyst conference. There he drew her a brief sketch on a napkin where he showed the three party system (Subject, Relying Party, Identity Provider) that is at the core of most of the emerging identity systems. She was hooked, but it wasn’t until in 2005, when Kim added some sample PHP Relying Party code to his blog that she saw a place where she could contribute. As a sometimes PHP hacker, she took the simple code, and began to port it over to some of her favorite PHP frameworks (WordPress, Joomla, and MediaWiki). Since that time, she and about 10 other contributers have been working to get a 1.0 version of the product out, which, given Pamela’s commitment, I suspect will be about like most other project’s 2.0 release.

“Before writing about my experience installing the WordPress v0.9 plugin, a word about the seemingly self-promulgatory name of the project because I think it says a lot about Pamela as a person and the Identity movement she’s part of. According to Pamela it’s the last name she would have thought of as a woman working as a technologist. As she explains, it’s hard enough as a woman to get recognized as a serious technologist without drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. Having a wife who is one the best Java engineers in NYC, but who also is regularly asked if she REALLY wrote the stunning code she produces, I can attest this is true. It’s because of this stereotype though that Pamela chose the name. She was tired, as someone who is self-admittedly “vocal”, of this kind of self-inflicted sheepishness. So in “defiance to self-regulation”, and at Craig Burton’s urging, she chose The Pamela Project…

“I’ll let you know how my experience actually USING the Pamela project goes in my next post. In the mean time, as you wait in breathless anticipation, why not go over to the project’s site and ask Pamela how you can be of use. This is a big project and they’re going to need all the help they can get.”

[More here.]

Virtual Corporate Business Cards

Martin Kuppinger is one of the key analysts behind the amazing European Identity Conference just held in Munich.  This was “User Centric Meets Enterprise Identity Management” with a twist: our European colleagues have many things to contribute to the discussion about how they fit together…

For a taste of what I'm talking about, here is a posting that I found dazzling.  There are no weeds encumbering Martin's thinking.  He's got the story:  Virtual Corporate Business Cards.   

Yes, I know – it is a little redundant talking about “corporate” and “business” in the context of virtual cards. But it is one of the most obvious, interesting and feasible business cases around Identity 2.0.

What do I mean by that term? My idea is about applying the ideas of Identity 2.0 and especially of InfoCard to the business. Provide every employee with an InfoCard or even some of them and you are better suited to solve many of today’s open issues.

How to issue these cards

I have this in mind for a pretty long time. I remember that I had asked Don Schmidt from Microsoft about the interface between Active Directory and CardSpace some time before EIC 2007. Active Directory might be one source of these cards. Just provide an interface between AD and an Identity Provider for InfoCards and you are able to issue and manage these cards based on information which still exits in the Active Directory. For sure, any other corporate directory or meta directory might work as well.

Today these technical interfaces are still missing, at least in an easy-to-use implementations. But it won’t take that long until we will see them. Thus, it is time to start thinking about the use cases.

How to use these cards

There are at least three types of cards I have in mind:

  • Virtual business cards: They are used when someone represents his company. How do you ensure today that every employee provides current and correct information when he registers with other web sites? How do you ensure that he acts in the web like you expect him to do? How do you ensure that he enters the correct title or the correct information about the size of your business when registering? InfoCards are the counterpart to your paper-based business cards today, but they can contain more information. And there might be different ones for different purposes.
  • Virtual corporate cards: They are used for B2B transactions and interactions. Add information like business roles to the cards and you can provide all these claims or assertions which are required for B2B business. These cards can be an important element in Federation, providing current information on the role of an employee or other data required. For sure there can be as well several cards, depending on the details which are required for interaction with different types of business partners.
  • Virtual employee cards: They are used internally, for example to identify users in business processes. Again, there might be a lot of information on them, like current business roles. You might use them as well to improve internal order processes, identifying the users who request new PCs, paper, or what ever else.

With these three types I might even have to extend the name for the cards, I assume. But I will stick with the term I have in the title of this post. The interesting aspect is the flexibility which (managed) InfoCards provide and the ability to manage them in context with a leading directory you have.

Due to the fact that you are the Identity Provider when applying these concepts you can ensure that no one uses these cards after leaving the company. You can ensure as well that the data is always up-to-date. That’s by far easier than with some of today’s equivalents for these future type of cards.

I will blog these days about two other ideas I have in mind in this context: The way the concept of claims Microsoft’s Kim Cameron is evangelizing will affect end-to-end security in business processes and SOA applications in general and the idea of using InfoCards for all these personalization and profiling ideas which have been discussed many years ago. I’m convinced that Identity 2.0 concepts like InfoCards and claims are a key element to solve these threats and bring these things to live.

There is a lot of business value in these concepts. And they will affect the way businesses cooperate, because they are much easier to implement and use than many other approaches.

I'm with you 100% Martin.  That's the most concise and comprehensible description of enterprise Information Cards that I've seen.  

Flickr, Windows Live ID and Phishing

We talk a lot in the identity milieu about opening up the “walled Gardens” that keep our digital experiences partitioned between Internet portals.  Speaking as a person who dabbles in many services, it would be really great if I could reuse information rather than entering it over and over again.  I think as time goes on we will get more and more fed up with the friction that engulfs our information.   Over time enough people will feel this way that no portal will be able to avoid ”data portability” and still attract usage.

Even so, many have argued that today’s business models don’t allow more user-centric services to evolve.  That’s why it has been fascinating to read about the new Flickr Friend Finder.  I think it is tremendously significant to see organizations of the stature of Flickr, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft working closely together so people can easily associate their pictures on one site with their friends and colleagues from others.

Once people decide to share information between their services, we run smack dab into the “how” of it all.  In the past, some sites actually asked you to give them your username and password, so they could essentially become you.  Clearly this was terrible from a security and identity point of view.  The fact is, sharing requires new technology approaches.

Windows Live has moved forward in this area by developing a new “Contacts API“.  Angus Logan gave us a great overview on his blog recently, taking us through the whole experience.  I recommend you look at it – the design handles a lot of fascinating issues that we’ll be encountering more and more.  I’ll just pick up on the first couple of steps:

Go to the Friend finder

image

Select Windows Live Hotmail (you can also select Yahoo! Mail and GMail) – I’d imagine soon there will be Facebook / LinkedIn / insert social network here.

 image

If you aren’t already authenticated, use your Windows Live ID to sign in (IMPORTANT: Notice how you are not sharing your Windows Live ID secret credential pair with Flickr – this is a good thing!)

image

If you have followed my work on the problems with protocols that redirect users across web contexts, you will see there is a potential problem here.  

If Flickr plays by the rules, it will not learn your username and password, and cannot “become you”.  It really is a step forward.

But if a user gets used to this behavior, an unreputable site can pretend to send her to Windows Live by putting up a fake page.  The fake can look real enough that the user gives away her credentials.

A user called davidacoder called this out on Angus’ blog:

I think this whole approach will lead to many, many, many hacked Windows Live ID accounts. If you guys seriously believe that average users will be able to follow the rule “only type in your credentials on login.live.com” your are just naive. AND your own uber-security guy Kim Cameron is telling that very story to the world for years already. I wouldn’t mind so much if a Live ID was a low-value asset, but you bring people to associate some of their most valuable assets with it (email, calendar, contacts). I find the whole approach irresponsible. I just hope that at some point, if someone looses his credentials this way, he will sue you and present Kim Cameron’s blog as evidence that you were perfectly aware in what danger you bring your users. And to make a long story short, I think the Live ID team should fix the phising problem first (i.e. implement managed infocards), before they come up with new delegation stuff etc that will just lead to more attack surface. Very bad planning.

I admire David’s passion, although I’d prefer not to be used in any law suits if that is OK with everyone.  Let’s face it.  There are two very important things to be done here. 

One is to open up the portals so people can control their information and use it as they see fit  I totally endorse Angus’ work in this regard, and the forward-looking attitude of the Windows Live team.  I urge everyone to give them the credit they deserve so they’ll continue to move in this positive direction.

The other is to deal with the phishing problems of the web. 

And let me be clear.  Information sharing is NOT the only factor heightening the need for stronger Internet identity.  It is one of a dozen factors.  Perhaps the most dangerous of these is the impending collision between the security infrastructure of the Internet and that of the enterprise.  But no one can prevent this collision – or turn back the forces of openness.  All we can do is make sure we apply every effort to get stronger identity into place.

On that front, today Neelamadhaba Mahapatro (Neel), who runs Windows Live ID, put up a post where he responds to David’s comment:

Earlier this week a comment was left on Angus Logan’s blog, it got me thinking, and I want to share what we are doing to create phishing resistant systems.

  • We are absolutely aware of the dangers of phishing on the Internet.
  • We understand the probability of attack goes up when the value of the asset that is being protected is higher than the strength of authentication protecting that asset – watch this video by Kim Cameron to see OpenID phished.
  • We have put certain measures in place to counteract phishing attempts which are listed below.

Self Issued InfoCards

In August 2007 we announced beta support for self issued InfoCards with Windows Live ID (instead of username/password). The Windows Live ID team is working closely with the Windows CardSpace team to ensure we deliver the best solution for the 400 million+ people who use Windows Live ID monthly. Angus’s commentor, davidacoder, also asked for the Windows Live ID service to become a Managed InfoCard provider – we have been evaluating this; however we have nothing to announce yet.

Authenticating to Windows Live ID with CardSpace.

Additional Protection through Extended Validation Certificates

To further reduce the risk of phishing, we have implemented Extended Validation certificates to prove that the login.live.com site is trustworthy. I do however think more education for internet users is required to help drive the understanding of what it means when the address bar turns green (and what to do when it doesn’t). When authenticating in a web browser, Microsoft will only ask for your Windows Live ID credential pair on login.live.com – nowhere else! (See this related post).

login.live.com with the Extended Validation certificate. 

Neel continues by showing a number of other initiatives the group has taken - including the Windows Live Sign-in Assistant and “roaming tiles”.  He concludes:

We’re constantly looking for ways to balance end-user security/privacy and user experience. If the barrier to entry is too high or the user experience is poor, the users will revolt. If it is too insecure the system becomes an easy target. A balance needs to be struck Using Windows CardSpace is definitely a move forward from usernames & passwords but adoption will be the critical factor here.

And he’s right.  Sites like Windows Live can really help drive this, but they can’t tell users what to do.  The important thing is to give people the option of using Information Cards to prevent phishing.  Beyond that, it is a matter of user education. One option would be for systems like Live ID to automatically suggest stronger authentication to people who use features like data sharing and off-portal authentication - features that put password credentials more at risk.

A C# Code Library for building an Information Card STS

I just heard about SharpSTS – a new open source project that allows you to implement a custom claims provider that will support Identity Selectors like CardSpace.  Better still, the code base has been posted.  Barry Dorrans, from idunno.org,  says:

Dominick and David beat me to the punch; last night I hit the “publish” button on codeplex for SharpSTS; a C# library to allow you to develop Information Card Security Token Services.

As with all open source projects there is still a bunch of work to do; as it stands we have a command line STS which should allow you to get started. Well; if you can work out from the source code what you need to do :)

Over the coming weeks and months I, as dictator, Dominick Baier and David  Christiansen hope to deliver a stable, tested, code base from which you can deliver managed information cards to your users, as well as a test web site which will issue and accept managed cards.

In the mean time you can download the code, implement your own authorisation policy provider and get started. In the meantime we’re guiding the rough beast, its hour come round at least, slouching towards Redmond to be born (with apologies to Yeats).

Wow.  Not only an STS but Yeats too!

SharpSTS is a C# code library which enables easy development of a Security Token Service, the server component for managed Information Cards.

To begin developing with SharpSTS you will need Visual Studio 2008 Standard (or higher), an SSL certificate and a client system that supports Information Cards.

The source code is available from http://www.codeplex.com/sharpSTS and is licensed under the Microsoft Public License (MS-Pl).

For those who are curious, the SharpSTS site includes a notice making it clear that “this web site, service and code are unaffiliated with Microsoft…”.