Edward Killeen

Recent Posts

AD Password Management & Synchronization

Posted by Edward Killeen on Fri, Sep 27, 2013

password synchronizationActive Directory password management is a three part problem: self service password reset;  password synchronization to other applications; and to eliminate passwords entirely!!!!

The first two are part of password management, but the third is the trend for forward looking IT organizations.  Let's talk about self service password reset and synchronization first and then talk about how to eliminate passwords completely.

Most users start the day with their Active Directory password.  And most users will eventually forget that password or get locked out.  To delegate the reset and unlocking, you need to have a way to verify (authenticate) who that user is before letting them change the password.  There are a few ways to do this:

  • the traditional knowledge based question and answer
  • second factor authentication -- not something they know but something they have like a mobile phone or software token
  • help desk questions

The key to making self service password reset work is to force users to enroll.  EmpowerID builds an enrollment check into each authentication workflow; if the user is not enrolled, they will be re-directed to an enrollment form, keeping your password management system from becoming shelfware.

Second factor authentication likewise should have choices, either using EmpowerID's built in OATH tokens, sending a PIN to an SMS gateway, or accepting a hardware token.  Adding this on top of the knowledge based questions helps ensure that your user is who they say they are.

Users will still forget their own knowledge based answers or have a phone battery die so you need a help desk backup.  EmpowerID does not let the help desk see the knowledge based questions and answers so we provide a set that is visible to the help desk to aid in verifying the user's identity.  Once verified, the help desk can easily reset or unlock the account.

For most password management solutions, this is as far as it extends: Active Directory.  Since EmpowerID is a full IAM platform with connectors into almost any cloud or on-premise application, passwords can be synchronized to those applications.  For example, if a user has an AD account, a Google apps account, and three line of business accounts, EmpowerID can synchronize that password from AD upon reset and ensure that the user has a single cohesive password meeting all of the password complexity rules.  This is extremely valuable for your end users.

But why stop there.  Single sign on can eliminate the need to even have all of those passwords.  If your applications can be federated with SAML or OAuth or any other federation standard, EmpowerID can authenticate your user with their AD credentials, then pass a token to the application to authenticate them there without your user ever using or needing to know that other password.  If the applicaiton isn't federated, EmpowerID also offers Web Access Management (WAM), secure password vaulting, and a built-in virtual directory for authentication.

Eliminating the need for all of these passwords is definitely preferable and adds security.  With EmpowerID you can also have role based or resource based step up authentication, requiring a second factor for more secure assets.  Users don't know their passwords so deprovisioning is more thorough with fewer moving parts.

EmpowerID is a single code base, purpose built Identity & Access Management platform that performs all of these functions seamlessly and interoperably.  Don't fall into a trap of buying a password management software that doesn't do everything you need it to.  Take a look at EmpowerID and see how you can solve all of the password challenges.

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Tags: Password management

How to choose your IAM platform: Think Big Start Smart

Posted by Edward Killeen on Fri, Sep 13, 2013

Identity & Access Management (IAM) is a big undertaking.  I always joke that the successor to the CIO who purchases a legacy IAM platform is the one that gets all of the credit for the project.  But it doesn't have to be that way; an IAM platform that is easy to install, customize and configure AND that is modular can give ROI along the way.

A partner of ours calls that Think Big, Start Smart.

Take a look at the way EmpowerID segments an IAM project:

IAM Platform

Some of these functions can be done standalone, some have a faster ROI than others, some have business owners that can fund the project.  But you have to choose a platform that first off can accomplish all of them and second off doesn't force you to buy all of it if you want to "start smart".

A great example of this is a customer who started by managing users and their access within SharePoint using EmpowerID's built-in claims functionality.  We were able to define a whole slew of dynamic roles and assign those to different SharePoint sites.  Once they had this functionality done, the roles and HR inventorying processes were already defined so a VERY easy next step was role based provisioning into all of the applicable systems.  Once accounts are defined, why not add single sign-on into those applications. 

This project was broken into three phases, all of the platform functionality was installed during the first phase (metadirectory, GRC functions, RBAC engine, visual workflow studio) and the customer just needed to purchase the appropriate module to unlock the functionality for each phase.  They were able to accomplish their main initial goal and future proof for the rest of their IAM needs.

EmpowerID's single code-base platform is what makes this work; we ship with over 400 out of the box workflow templates and all of the capabilities of the metadirectory, RBAC engine, audit/SOD capabilities and visual workflow studio.  This is out of the box regardless of the module.

The sections in green below are the functions that come with the platform:

EmpowerID IAM platform

When you are choosing a platform for IAM, think of these factors.  Can you start smart, get an initial positive ROI, and future proof for future needs?  IAM is big, never forget to think big.  And that means thinking EmpowerID.  Schedule a demo today!

Schedule an IAM demo that Starts Smart!

Tags: User provisioning, Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Office 365 without Active Directory

Posted by Edward Killeen on Wed, Aug 28, 2013

Microsoft makes Office 365 pretty easy when you are already managing Active Directory with its DirSync utility.  However, this doesn't always work if your users are not in AD or if you have multiple forests.  So, how do you manage provisioning, group management and SSO to Office 365 without AD?


Office 365 without Active DirectoryLet's take the first use case, users that are not in AD but that need an O365 account.  This happens often in franchises, education, manufacturing or when offering accounts to non-employees.  EmpowerID's metadirectory stores a "person" object that is completely independent of AD, this user account can then be provisioned to O365 and updated through EmpowerID's HTML5 user interface.

Users have the ability to manage group membership, passwords (including self service password reset) and single sign-on to O365 with the EmpowerID credentials.  All of these changes are made in the metadirectory which is synchronized directly to Office 365 without AD in between as well as direct Identity Administration where the workflows make live changes directly to Office 365 like we do to AD. Not all has to go through sync like FIM.

You can automate all of the provisioning/deprovisioning to the metadirectory based on a connector to any other system (student database for example).  The EmpowerID Office 365 connector does all of the heavy lifting that DirSync does but adds the complete workflow and RBAC capability of EmpowerID.  Without AD in the mix.

The other use case is one that a few customers have brought to us: Office 365 does not work with multiple AD forests unless you want to deal with FIM and the army of consultants / developers necessary to manage that.  Again, the EmpowerID metadirectory solves this, easily connecting and synchronizing each AD forest into the metadirectory, creating a person object that joins user accounts in each forest.

The EmpowerID Office 365 connector then does all of the heavy lifting, provisioning accounts, offering password management, single sign-on and group management.  Any changes you make can flow out to each AD forest as well.

The customers that have come to us for this scenario always point out the obvious, if they used FIM they are not future proofed, not only do they pay more for the initial deployment, but if there is another acquisition and another forest added, they have to start the whole process again with FIM.  With EmpowerID, it is a matter of connecting another AD forest with the connector already in place.  Easy peasy.

Office 365 is a great product (we use it internally) but there are limitations to deploying it with DirSync and some very specific use cases where it doesn't work.  EmpowerID fixes those use cases while giving a huge number of other IAM platform advantages.  Take the time for a demo of how we can manage O365 without AD and see how much more you can do with a robust single codebase IAM platform.

Schedule a demo of  EmpowerID for Office 365

Tags: Active Directory, Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Single Sign-on (SSO) as part of an Identity Management platform

Posted by Edward Killeen on Wed, Aug 07, 2013

Single sign-on does not exist in a vacuum.  Especially in an extranet environment, you need to know who those users are, what access they should have, and give them a way to manage their identity.  Essentially, identity management cannot be separated from SSO.

SSO as part of an identity management platformWhen SSO projects come our way, the initial conversations are always around SAML federation, Web Access Management (WAM), or password vaulting.  We talk about identity providers, service providers, SharePoint claims, and multi-factor authentication.  Customers talk about their applications and user experience in SSO.  What they don't bring up is how to manage those external users because other SSO vendors avoid that conversation like the plague.

If all applications were federated (they aren't), then this might not be as big of a deal but in truth, most of our customers have a mix of SSO technologies and you need to know who those users are.  You will need to have self-registration for external users, automated provisioning for internal users, self service password reset for IdP credentials, attestation and certification of user accounts and access, and step up authentication for secure access.

EmpowerID's platform comes with base functionality for all of its modules.  The base platform contains the metadirectory, RBAC engine, and visual workflow studio.  All identity management workflows (create user, change password, etc) are part of the platform to manage the external user.  Your users will have all of the abilities for SSO and you will know who they are and have extensive identity management capabilities.

But, remember, the customer is coming to us for SSO so the platform still needs to be able to offer single sign-on in the most comprehensive way.  Many applications are federated (SAML, OAuth, OpenID, WS-Trust and WS-Federation) but for those that aren't the SSO platform needs to have multiple ways to handle that application.

SSO Manager offers a few options:

  • Web Access Management (WAM): either using reverse proxy or an agent, SSO Manager can intercept access attempts to an application, send them over to EmpowerID for authentication and return them authenticated to the application without any interaction on their part
  • Federated SSO: EmpowerID can act as either the identity provider or service provider using any federated protocol (SAML, OAuth, OpenID, WS-Trust, WS-Federation)
  • Password vaulting: as a last resort, users can claim accounts, provide the username and password which will be vaulted securely on the EmpowerID server and provide the same seamless SSO experience for the user
  • Shared accounts: for many applications such as Twitter or Facebook, corporate accounts need to be shared without giving out the password, the owner can share the account and revoke access when needed
  • Virtual Directory: the EmpowerID metadirectory is exposed as a virtual LDAP directory that can be used as the back end identity store for any application

By offering this comprehensive solution, your users will authenticate and be presented with a dashboard of SSO applications; they don't need to know how you got them the SSO access, it is seamless.  You can manage their access and user accounts all from one platform, on a single code base with the easiest and most efficient management in the industry. 

Let us demonstrate these capabilities and you will see why the comprehensive platform is your best method to providing single sign-on.

Schedule a demo of a comprehensive SSO platform!

Tags: Single Sign-on (SSO), Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Virtual Directory for application authentication

Posted by Edward Killeen on Wed, Jul 17, 2013

Whether you are building a new application or trying to retire the old legacy directory for an old application, having a virtual directory directly tied to your identity directory gives you great flexibility.

EmpowerID maintains a metadirectory that inventories and updates all of your various identity stores on a continuous basis, keeping a single unified "person view" of each user, whether they be internal or external.  This metadirectory can be used for a lot more than Identity and Access Management (IAM), however.

But rather than synchronize all of this identity information to yet another directory, EmpowerID's Virtual Directory allows you to present this metadirectory identity information as LDAP.  EmpowerID roles are presented as LDAP groups and you can maintain the exact schema required for the application without having to manage another directory.

This virtual directory is especially useful for applications that require internal and external users to both have access, replacing the need to have external users inside of your corporate directory.  As LDAP, users on any OS can access, authenticate and authorize against the directory.

Virtual Directory for application authentication

By using this virtual directory as your application directory, you no longer have to worry about separate provisioning and de-provisioning as all of the workflows around user management are included in your IAM, you simply create a role based provisioning workflow to create accounts in the virtual directory based on user attributes.  You can offer self registration, password management, single sign-on, and RBAC policies to apply to what your user can and cannot do in the application.

Since all of EmpowerID is workflow based and can be managed with APIs and web services, you can even build the management of these users into your application, lessening the learning curve for administration of the application

Virtual directories that are separate from your IAM have many of the same challenges as legacy directories, take a look at what you would need to integrate the two and take advantage of all of the IAM capabilities for your application.

Tags: Virtual Directory, Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Comparison of ADFS to EmpowerID SSO Manager

Posted by Edward Killeen on Thu, Jul 11, 2013

EmpowerID comparison to ADFSSingle sign-on does not have a magic bullet; instead, it requires a swiss army knife.  Meaning many different ways to get users authenticated into an application using only one set of credentials.  A German partner of ours calls this eierlegende Wollmilchsau based on one of our customers describing everything that EmpowerID can do.

This ability to perform multiple methods of single sign-on from federation to Web Access Management to password vaulting gives an extraordinary ability to get users authenticated to almost ANY web application using either corporate or social credentials.  EmpowerID lets you authenticate external or internal users, apply a role to them, giving them appropriate access to any resource (on premise or cloud) and, just as importantly, not force you to have AD credentials for the user.

This is where the comparison to Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) comes in.  Not all of your users should be in AD and they are not always accessing WS* or SAML applications.  In addition, you need to have role based access control (RBAC) determining the level of access for the user.  And you need two factor authentication (TFA) for either highly privileged users or highly secure applications.  ADFS is just too limited.

The below list illustrates some of the advantages of a true SSO/Federation/WAM application like EmpowerID has over ADFS:

  1. Directory neutral federation (AD, LDAP, SQL, CUSTOM, etc. etc.)

  2. Multifactor authentication (including Smartcard, OATH and identity proofing)

  3. Extensive list of out-of-box authentication providers (including AD, Username/Pwd, social credentials like Salesforce, Twitter etc. etc.)

  4. Powerful claims generation, transformation and issuing (leverage full power of C#, Web Services)

  5. Leverage RBAC and powerful Metadirectory to issue advanced claims (Business Role and Location, Management Roles, Set Groups etc. etc.)

  6. Enhanced security for sensitive data with advanced claims level encryption

  7. SSO for non-Microsoft applications

  8. Complete support for OAuth 2.0

  9. Complete support for SAML 2.0 SSO Web Profiles

  10. SSO Application Dashboard + powerful features like Persona etc. etc.

There is really no comparison to having a complete eierlegende wollmilchsau swiss army knife SSO platform that can authenticate any of your users, using any credential, performing full RBAC, and connecting to any application on any network.  ADFS just cannot compare.

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Tags: Single Sign-on (SSO)

Take advantage of BYOD in Identity Management

Posted by Edward Killeen on Thu, Jun 06, 2013

BYOD and identity managementImagine having your users empty their pockets at a big security checkpoint as they enter your building.  What kinds of devices would you find?  Tons of tablets, scads of smartphones, the rare Google Glass, and probably one guy who still has a pager.  Make a stack of all of these and it's most likely taller than your building.

This BYOD trend can obviously be a security risk but it is also an identity management opportunity.  The reason is that mobile devices are an integral part of a user's identity; users are very rarely separated from their phone so you can use the device to help identify them.

The best and most immediate use is two factor authentication (TFA).  Software based tokens are free, the OATH server comes with EmpowerID and the client apps (such as Google Authenticator) are free.  The uses for two factor authentication are many and can help balance the security risk that you're facing just allowing these devices.  We recommend three main uses for two factor authentication:

  1. Two factor authentication with ALL password resets.  If a user is resetting their passwords, force TFA to ensure they are who they say they are.
  2. Step up authentication.  When a user is attempting to access a highly secure resource (folder with 10Q financial documents, the SharePoint site with Coca Cola's secret recipe, etc.) step up their authentication to include two factor authentiation.
  3. Role based authentication.  If a user wants to be highly privileged, make them prove who they are when they authenticate.  Often the users with the most privilege have the most clout in the organization and get away with the least security (CxO, domain admins, etc).  That is bad security.

On top of TFA, use your identity management platform for device registration.  If a user is authenticating and accessing resources from a mobile device, know who that user is and what device they are using.  Link the device to the user and have the tools to audit how and when the user is accessing company resources.

And, finally, have a self service portal that users can use from their mobile device.  EmpowerID has an HTML5 interface that works natively on all devices, allowing users to authenticate, reset their passwords, access SharePoint, request access to resources and all other identity actions.

These devices are not going away, take advantage of them in your identity management plans.  We can demo how EmpowerID can make that stack of phones work to your advantage, contact us today to see how!

Schedule a demo of EmpowerID making BYOD work for you

Tags: Identity and Access Management (IAM)

SharePoint permissions dynamically by role

Posted by Edward Killeen on Thu, May 23, 2013

SharePoint permissions do not have to be managed with SharePoint groups, those lonely unmanaged completely removed from the rest of the enterprise collections of users.  SharePoint has evolved to first accept Active Directory groups for permissions and now to accept roles via a claims provider.

Claims providers created in SharePoint can be used for adding claims to the security tokens of users when configuring permissions on secure objects like lists, sites, items and documents.  When EmpowerID is the claims provider, it provides its dynamic polyarchical roles as a selection in the SharePoint People Picker.

How is this useful?  Well, it's a lot easier to manage EmpowerID role memberships than SharePoint or even AD groups.  EmpowerID roles can be managed dynamically by any attribute in any connected identity store (Active Directory, HR, CRM, ERP).  Role locations as well can be mapped from any connected application so a user in the London OU in Active Directory will be mapped to the London role automatically.

By having management roles (the user's job(s)) and location in separate trees, you can define permissions very granularly.  For example, you may only want IT managers in London to have access to the SharePoint site to review IT tasks in London.  You simply pick from the two trees to get IT Admins in London.

Manage SharePoint permissions with roles

You can even add a runtime decision by incorporating Attribute Based Access Control (ABAC) into the equation if you want to check your timecard system to only allow on-duty IT Admins to have access!

The advantage to all of this is that user's permissions are not static.  Conservative estimates say that internal turnover is about 20% per year, meaning that 1 in 5 users will change jobs.  Think of the last time you updated a SharePoint group....it is certainly not that often.  Roles, however, are dynamic, reading from attributes that flow from within HR or any other authoritative source.  If that IT Admin makes the mistake of starting in sales, she will automatically have her IT admin role revoked and new sales role(s) invoked.  Permissions will change without IT having to lift a finger.

Check out our whitepaper on dynamic roles or schedule a demonstration of EmpowerID and see how it can increase your security in SharePoint without having to mess around with SharePoint groups!

Schedule demo of SharePoint Permissions Mgmt

Tags: Role Based Access Control (RBAC), SharePoint

Introducing EmpowerID 2013: the future of IAM

Posted by Edward Killeen on Tue, May 14, 2013

Today, The Dot Net Factory releases EmpowerID 2013 for general availability. Building on its industry leading visual workflow platform, EmpowerID expands Identity & Access Management (IAM) to manage the two hottest trends in the market: mobility and single sign-on.


EmpowerID 2013

EmpowerID is innovating with the changes in today’s business climate. More users are using mobile devices, requiring more flexible and secure authentication, and demanding a single username and password. Users no longer means just your employees, you need a way to manage the identities and login experience for customers, partners and other external users. EmpowerID 2013 provides new exciting features to match these changing needs.

New in EmpowerID 2013

  • Web Access Management (WAM) to complement Federated SSO
  • Virtual directory LDAP server built on Node.js
  • HTML5 interface for a complete mobile experience
  • Forced device registration for strong authentication
  • OATH compliant server for software and hardware Time Based One Time Passwords (for web login, RADIUS login, LDAP and others)
  • Full smart card login support
  • FIPS compliance

The balance between security and productivity is a challenge for all businesses, EmpowerID provides a critical fulcrum by getting your users the correct access exactly when they need it. From authentication to authorization to actually getting work done, your users need to have the correct permissions, have access to the correct systems, and know how to manage this access. EmpowerID is the only Identity Management platform that maps these needs to your business processes.

These new features give more flexibility in how to manage users identities and how the users can access resources. Coupled with EmpowerID’s already existing extensive collection of identity workflows, full rights based access control, and metadirectory, these new features will allow companies to keep up with the needs of their employees.

Schedule a demo of EmpowerID 2013 and see what's new

Tags: Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Managing external identity: Provisioning, RBAC and SSO

Posted by Edward Killeen on Mon, May 13, 2013

Life would be a lot easier if we only had to manage our employees' identities.  But we have customers, partners, and contractors.  These external identities have the same needs for identity management as our internal identities.  In fact, they might have more needs as we know a lot less about them.

managing external identityThe most common scenario that we see is when a customer (the external user) registers for services with our client.  The needs are very simple: self-registration, role based access control, approval workflows, and federated single sign-on (SSO).  I'm kidding, that's not simple.

Let's start with the self-registration.  When your external user first finds your site, you will want their registration to be simple, giving them immediate access to the most public facing resources.  EmpowerID's built in forms designer allows you to have them fill out the important information and create an account in the metadirectory. 

The RBAC engine will give them the most basic of permissions at the same time that it either kicks off an approval workflow to grant more permissions or inventories another identity store (CRM for example) to determine their role and give higher privileges.

So, now you know who they are and can design some provisioning rules for other applications.  With the roles in place, you know that customers that meet certain criteria get access to different applications and resources.  Role based provisioning will automatically create accounts in these applications.

Permissions are managed with these roles too.  Polyarchical roles allow you to protect resources at a very granular level without having to create a role for every single type of external user.

Now we get to the heart of the matter, you know who your external users are, what their roles are and what access you give each role.  Now your users need to access these resources and applications.

Enter single sign-on (SSO).  You have provisioned a user account in the EmpowerID metadirectory.  This metadirectory can act as an identity provider or service provider, meaning that you can authenticate with EmpowerID and federate out to other applications or you can authenticate with other credentials, federate with EmpowerID and then with your other applications.

EmpowerID as an identity provider is incredibly powerful, it is also a Secure Token Service, allowing it to send tokens to the federated applications and giving users immediate access based on their role.  EmpowerID supports federation with SAML, OpenID, OAuth, WS-Trust and WS-Federation.

For applications that aren't federated, EmpowerID can also perform Web Access Management (WAM), sending user credentials securely and giving the same end user experience.

On the flip side, you can also federate with other identity providers such as Facebook or Twitter, giving users the ability to authenticate with credentials they use every day.  EmpowerID is still in the middle and provides role based access to the connected applications.

EmpowerID is one of the only IAM solutions on the market that manages external users' provisioning, authentication and authorization.  EmpowerID supports anonymous provisioning, allowing users to register for the services and be given a baseline of permissions.  EmpowerID can federate with Facebook, Twitter, etc. to authenticat, claim accounts in other applications and manage any attributes.

EmpowerID can then perfrom two factor authentication, device registration or identity proffing to further confirm the user's identity.  This seamless HTML5 interface works on any device allowing mobile usage and a better overall user experience.

Schedule a demonstration and see how you can manage your external identities, giving them more secure and easy access to your resources.


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Tags: Single Sign-on (SSO), Role Based Access Control (RBAC), User provisioning, Identity and Access Management (IAM)