When we talk about access control, we usually assume that we are discussing all of its aspects, including identification, authentication and authorization. This month, we are hitting some important high points that touch each of those. First, we look at biometrics, which has long been thought of as expensive and, perhaps, a bit too flaky for mass use. Oh, there was never any doubt that if you could have a low cost, accurate, easy-to-use biometric tool you could have solid authentication. But cost and other factors limited their use to very high-security applications.
Unfortunately, in today's paranoid, compliance-driven world, almost everything is high security. So biometrics has started to look like a pretty attractive authentication option. We still have to get past the cost and apply biometrics to masses of people.
Identity and access management is the next challenge. The simple question of “who are you?” is not quite so simple in an age of mobile devices and large networks with fuzzy perimeters. We've got a really nice product for you in this area. Operating in the cloud adds a level of ease of use that is a big deal in the types of applications we see today.
Finally, authorization took a hit when mobile devices – especially in an age of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) – started to take over. While not quite ubiquitous computing, these devices pose a special challenge. The organization needs to be able to control devices that access its data, but that do not belong to the organization. This is an authorization issue, but it also has elements of identification and authentication.
The usual approach to the problem has traditionally been network access control (NAC). That has worked fine with relatively static devices on the network. But with the BYOD challenge, new wrinkles need to be added to make everything work smoothly and safely. Our Innovator this year has a good handle on the problem and is both creative and effective. The results certainly get the job done.
So, on with the show. Here are our first Innovators for 2012: