Critical Infrastructure Security

Product section: Managing access – first line of enterprise defense

Welcome to the first Group Test reviews of 2008. Appropriately, we start this year with two important groups: identity management and multifactor authentication products. This is appropriate because access control is an important first line of defense — for protecting the network and the data on it. Two key issues in access control are identity and authentication.

Today's large enterprises are difficult to manage when we start talking about identities spread all over the globe. Not only are these identities geographically disbursed, they are of many different types. In modern enterprises it is not unusual to see a range of user roles — from system administrators to customers. This means that there also is a wide range of identities and authentication types required.

This month we explore products that work together to provide strong authentication and identity management. Authentication management comes from replacing multiple-use passwords with multifactor authentication mechanisms. Identity management covers a broad range of requirements — from provisioning to managing forms of authentication.

Today identity management manages very large, complex networks of users. But it does a lot more. We looked at products, for example, that include workflow management systems tied to the universe of identified users in the enterprise. And, of course, the tough piece of the definition is what we mean by “manage.” That, we found, is an evolving definition.

Multifactor authentication is slowly coming into its own. Mostly, we see two factor — something you know and something you have — but we are beginning to note that there are other factors, such as biometrics (something you are) and behavior (something you do). The smart card revolution is upon us and we looked at one product that was nothing more than smart card circuitry worked into a sticky label that you stick on your organization ID card.

So with the stage set and the test beds in the SC Lab fired up and ready to go, we kick off 2008 with this month's Group Test reviews: multifactor authentication and identity management. Lab Manager Mike Stephenson is in the SC Lab with identity management, while Director of Lab Operations John Aitken is testing multifactor identification products.

— Peter Stephenson, technology editor

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