Transvasive Security

the human factor

CyberSecureGov 2016: Practical Identity and Access Management

Earlier this year, I spoke at CyberSecureGov 2016, after my proposed talk based on the two years I spent working on large government projects was accepted. Identity & Access Management has always been an interest of mine, ever since my days supporting a security administration team, and I learned quite a bit by working on projects setting up single sign-on for the public.

From the Abstract:

Building Identity & Access Management solutions can be difficult. This presentation reviews lessons learned from designing and building IAM solutions in multiple states, focusing on the unique challenges of IAM in government, which must serve the needs of three separate groups: the public, government agencies, and NGOs. Lessons drawn from real-world experiences will demonstrate what works, what doesn’t, and how to fix things when they go wrong.

Following the flow of a typical user’s experience, the presentation will cover the successes, and failures of designing an IAM solution: getting a user ID, logging in to the system, matching “me” as a public user to “my data,” and getting access to the system. Along the way, we will explore lessons about how design choices for each step can impact that experience.

Also covered are designs that were not implemented, sharing the vision of how automated user-driven access requests, changes, and reviews can both improve user experience and lower costs.

The key lesson for me was to understand that there are three key aspects of enrolling users in a public website, that should be handled separately: provisioning a user ID, identity matching, and identity proofing. Making these separate processes solves many potential problems and provides a better user experience.

One interesting thing I noticed in both talks is that there were a small core of very interested attendees – most security professionals don’t have to deal with Identity & Access Management, but those who do tend to be very passionate about the topic, and could easily relate to the problems we faced while building out large SSO solutions.

You can download a copy of the slides from the presentation here. A video of my talk at OWASP MSP is available here.