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What are my options for web identity management?

If you are moving sensitive business content and processes to the web, you must provide web identity management. You really don't have a choice. Whether the web site is internal or facing the public, you are faced with business and regulatory requirements that demand prudent control of the information.

Fortunately you have a number of options for providing web access management. Some are noted below:

  • Build the access control into the applications. Usually the application asks for a user name and password before running. This turns out to be relatively expensive, since each application requires its own security management. Furthermore, this is not particularly dependable, since frequent changes to applications can compromise security.

  • Leverage the access control in the operating system or server. Operating systems and web servers generally come with some form of access control - usually password based. There are two issues to this approach: it makes it difficult to mix operating systems or servers, and operating systems have a spotty security history.

  • Integrate third-party software into your enterprise web site. This generally requires establishing significant infrastructures of support servers and directories. These extensive solutions tend to be expensive with long, involved integration projects. Many organizations find that it requires enterprise-wide buy-in to implement these solutions. Changes to your servers or applications might require re-integration projects.

  • Install a web identity authentication appliance. These appliances tend to be quick to install and low cost. Well engineered appliances provide stronger security than software based solutions. Some appliances provide optional integration into your enterprise infrastructures.

"Complexity is the worst enemy of security. Secure systems should be cut to the bone and made as simple as possible. There is no substitute for simplicity"

-- Bruce Schneier,        Secrets and Lies
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