Here is news from Internet2 and Shibboleth, the open-source software for building multilateral federations that has become especially popular in the academic world (more information on Shibboleth here).
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – May 23, 2007 – Adding information card support to Shibboleth, the most widely-deployed federated authentication architecture, would enable interoperability with Windows CardSpace which provides critical support for secure user-centric authentication and identity information exchange for web-based applications. By enabling this interoperability, Microsoft and Internet2 aim to help users exchange personal identity information more safely and easily. In doing so, institutions can more effectively leverage their existing and future investments in their identity management solutions and build a closer, safer relationship with their users.
“As more and more companies and organizations make information materials and resources accessible online, the need for secure access solutions has become critical. We see information card technology like Microsoft's Windows CardSpace as a very important step forward in creating a ubiquitous Internet identity layer, which is a key goal of the Shibboleth project as well,” said RL “Bob” Morgan, security architect at the University of Washington and co-manager of the Shibboleth Project. “We appreciate Microsoft's leadership in helping to create an open environment for information card development and deployment, and are grateful for Microsoft support of Windows CardSpace work in Shibboleth.”
Shibboleth is a standards-based, open source middleware architecture providing both intra-domain and inter-domain single-sign on (SSO) capability. Used by over 20 million users worldwide within the research and higher education community, Shibboleth implements the OASIS Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) standard specification, and is currently interoperable with Microsoft's Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS).
Both Shibboleth and Windows CardSpace provide the underlying mechanisms for institutions and individuals to share resources across organizational boundaries and to make informed authorization decisions for the access of protected online resources. This federated authentication model implemented by both Internet2 and Microsoft has proven to provide online resource providers and institutions with a solid platform for exchanging information in a highly secure and privacy-preserving manner. Once development is complete, sites using Windows CardSpace will have the ability to participate in the growing number of Shibboleth-based federations worldwide.
“The Internet2 Shibboleth project has been one of the leaders in bringing interoperable digital identity to the academic and research communities worldwide,” said Michael B. Jones, senior program manager for Identity Partnerships at Microsoft. “Shibboleth's support for information cards allows people in the Shibboleth federation to use the cards at sites participating in the Identity Metasystem, making the identities more valuable to both the issuers and to the individuals, as well as enhancing the user's control of their online interactions.”
I echo Mike's words. Shibboleth is distinctly forward thinking in its approach, and has been the main crucible for refining the thinking (and practice) that enables multilateral federations like those needed to facilitate co-operation between universities.
As Shibboleth federations continue to grow, so will the rewards for attacking them. CardSpace, and other compatible Information Card selectors, will add resilience and phishing resistance while helping solve Shibboleth's “home site discovery” problem in a way that doesn't put control in the hands of evil sites posing as federation affiliates.
For more details on what is at stake here, see this posting where I explain a similar vulnerability in OpenID. SAML and the browser-based version of WS-Federation are also subject to these attacks, which become more probable as the technologies become more widely deployed.