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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Thursday, July 20, 2017

Meeting in the Insane Asylum

History, Oracle
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
11:39 am

Lots of nostalgia this week … yesterday and today, my meetings have been on the Oracle Santa Clara Campus. It is always enjoyable to come here and remember the many meetings I attended here prior to the Oracle acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2010 and with Oracle colleagues since then.

It is fun to meet in the grand old buildings on this campus, which were first built as part of the Agnews Development Center, originally known as “The Great Asylum for the Insane.” Commentary on the present occupants? You decide.

IMG 3010

 

A Stroll Down [Technology] Memory Lane

History, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
9:51 pm

This week, I am staying in the Santa Clara Marriott hotel for a few days while attending some corporate meetings.  As I drove to Santa Clara from the San Francisco Airport yesterday, I began to reminisce about times in my early career when I spent a lot of time in this part of the world.  

IMG 3042

I first stayed in this hotel in 1984, soon after the release of the first Macintosh computer.  For about two years, I worked closely with Apple Computer, first to recommend improvements to their manufacturing management system and then to manage the upgrade process. I can vividly remember the weekend I spent holed up in this hotel with a Mac computer (black and white screen of course) and a dot matrix printer, writing a proposal that Apple adopted to implement the Tandem-based manufacturing information system we had installed in the Fremont Macintosh factory, in their factories in Ireland and Singapore.

Now, so many years later, although some things seem just the same (think Moffett Field blimp hangars), much has changed.

  • The Santa Clara Marriott was the first hotel where I spent more than $100 a night for a hotel room. The price has risen to more than $300 per night on my employer’s discounted price schedule. (But my room does have a large flat screen TV and an NFC door lock that didn’t like my Marriott mobile app.)
  • Airline tickets back then were printed on paper and had to be picked up from the travel agency. No paperless tickets or boarding passes on my Apple watch.
  • I did not have an email address (or a blog or a website or facebook account – they hadn’t been invented yet).
  • It would be a full 8 years before I owned my first mobile phone.  
  • Before I took a trip, I had to leave specific instructions with my wife about what phone numbers she could use to reach me during the day or evening.  If I had to reach her during the day, it was most likely on a pay phone. And I actually used the hotel room phone in the evening!
  • Of course, I had no GPS.  I used printed maps from AAA and the rental car office to navigate.
  • I carried a cassette tape player in my suitcase so I could listen to music.
  • I actually took notes on paper, had a paper day planner and used a paper address book. I submitted travel expenses report — on paper!
  • I did have a first generation Compaq portable computer back home in Utah, but I usually never took it on trips with me, especially not to Apple! 
  • And the list could go on and on …

It just boggles my mind to think what changes will occur in the next 3+ decades!

 

AJ Foyt – What a Driver!

Automotive, History
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, May 12, 2017
3:08 pm

60 years ago, on May 12, 1957, when I was just four years old, AJ Foyt won his first professional motorsports race, in a midget car, in Kansas City, Missouri. From that inauspicious beginning, he went on to became the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 (four times), the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When I was a teenager, I loved to listen to the Indianapolis 500 on my radio (it sounds crazy now!). We didn’t own a television, so I had to imagine in my mind the daring strategies of those crazy drivers! AJ Foyt was my all time favorite!

AJ Foyt dirt car 1961

 

 

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If the Golden Spike were driven today …

History, Humor
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
10:07 am

On this day 148 years ago, in 1869, the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads met in Promontory, Utah, to drive a ceremonial last “Golden Spike” into a rail line that connected their railroads, forming a Transcontinental Railroad line.

Is this how it would work today?

Goldenspike

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Passwords and Buggy Whips, Revisited

Identity, Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
10:02 am

Whip

StrongPassword large

Eight years ago this month, I posted a short article on this blog entitled, Passwords and Buggy Whips.

Quoting Dave Kearns, the self proclaimed Grandfather of Identity Management:

Username/password as sole authentication method needs to go away, and go away now. Especially for the enterprise but, really, for everyone. As more and more of our personal data, private data, and economically valuable data moves out into “the cloud” it becomes absolutely necessary to provide stronger methods of identification. The sooner, the better.

I commented:

Perhaps this won’t get solved until I can hold my finger on a sensor that reads my DNA signature with 100% accuracy and requires that my finger still be alive and attached to my body.  We’ll see …

So here we are.  Eight years have come and gone, and we still use buggy whips (aka passwords) as the primary method of online authentication.

Interesting standards like FIDO have been proposed, but are still not widely used.

I was a beta tester for UnifyID‘s solution, which used my phone and my online behavior as multiple factors.  I really liked their solution until my employer stopped supporting the Google Chrome browser in favor of Firefox. Alas, UnifyID doesn’t support Firefox!

We continue to live in a world that urgently needs to be as rid of passwords as we are of buggy whips, but I don’t see a good solution coming any time soon.  Maybe in another eight years?

 

 

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Blockchain – Enabling the Fourth Phase of Identity?

Identity
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, May 5, 2017
10:49 am

Blockchain

The most intriguing work in the Identity world today is the potential application of Blockchain/Distributed Ledger technology for user-focused Identity Management.

I am certainly not a blockchain expert, but I believe these concepts have the potential to solve several nagging problems that have been facing us for many years, including:

  1. Individual users can confidently leverage their own identities across multiples organizations, including employers, government agencies, online vendors, etc.
  2. Multiple organizations across public and private sectors could rely on digital identities just as confidently as these organizations currently relay on identification documents such as passports, drivers licenses, etc.
  3. The huge proliferation of multiple identity relationships that must be set up for individual users to access and use online resources could be drastically reduced.
  4. The overall digital infrastructure for managing identities could be significantly simplified. 
  5. The ability to secure digital identities could be significantly improved in an increasingly hostile online world.

We certainly aren’t there yet, but I am encouraged by work being done.  Some of the recent articles I have read on the subject include:

BlockChain TechnologiesThat Go Beyond Bitcoin.  Item 3 of 6 is “Digital Identity.”  

Blockchain technologies make tracking and managing digital identities both secure and efficient, resulting in seamless sign-on and reduced fraud.

The Path to Self-Sovereign Identity, blog post by Christopher Allen: 

I want to share a vision for how we can enhance the ability of digital identity to enable trust while preserving individual privacy. This vision is what I call “Self-Sovereign Identity”.

Christopher outlines four broad stages since the advent of the Internet:

  1. Centralized identity
  2. Federated identity
  3. User-centric identity
  4. Self-sovereign identity.

He then proposes “Ten Principles of Self-Sovereign Identity” that appear to provide a foundation upon which to construct standards and systems to build a real “Fourth Phase” identity system:

  1. Existence. Users must have an independent existence. 
  2. Control. Users must control their identities.
  3. Access. Users must have access to their own data.
  4. Transparency. Systems and algorithms must be transparent. 
  5. Persistence. Identities must be long-lived.
  6. Portability. Information and services about identity must be transportable.
  7. Interoperability. Identities should be as widely usable as possible.
  8. Consent. Users must agree to the use of their identity.
  9. Minimalization. Disclosure of claims must be minimized. 
  10. Protection. The rights of users must be protected.

The following two articles appear to draw heavily from the concepts presented by Christopher Allen.

The Journey to a Self-Sovereign Digital Identity Built on a Blockchain.  According to IBM’s Jai Singh Arun

Permissioned blockchain technology provides core capabilities that enable a trusted digital identity network to build and operate.

I agree that blockchain technology is essential to achieving the goals outlined by Christoper Allen.

A Self-Sovereign Identity Architecture. (PDF file) A topic paper from the ID2020 Design Workshop:

to identify what a self-sovereign architecture would look like for the Web as well as a number of technical requirements of such an architecture. This topic paper outlines that proposed architecture and its primary components and actors.

It is good to see that smart people are working together to explore how to transform these foundation principles into reality.

IEEE launches standards program focused on blockchain and identity

Technical organization and standards leader, IEEE, is launching a new program to create standards around consumer and patient data protection, specifically as it relates to blockchain and identity. Called, Digital Inclusion through Trust and Agency, the initiative will bring together technology innovators, policy experts and academic researchers to address the topic.

Standards will be necessary to make blockchain – based identity systems pervasive in the world.

Blockchain-based Identity meets the Sovrin Foundation. According to Phil Windley, Chair of the non-profit Sovrin Foundation:

Sovrin is building a scalable, privacy-protected, auditable (based on time-stamped data written to the distributed ledger) ecosytem empowering individuals to manage their identities, support granular selective disclosure and provide organizations with trusted connections to individuals. 

I am impressed with the work the Sovrin Foundation is doing.  The fact that an independent, non-profit organization has been established to be the independent overseer of a blockchain-based identity service seems to provide a solution to the inevitable conflicts of interest that exist if organizations like banks, credit bureaus, credit card issuers or the government provide identity services.

I am working to better understand the concepts and challenges in this exciting area.  It is going to be a fun ride.

 

 

 

 

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Oracle Identity Cloud Service

Cloud Services, Identity, Information Security
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
10:28 am

This morning, I watched the launch webcast for the Oracle Identity Cloud Service  a cloud native security and identity management platform designed to be an integral part of the enterprise security fabric.

This short video, shown on the webcast, provides a brief introduction:

 

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Telephone Industry Transformation – Switchboard to Dial!

Communications, History
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
12:28 pm

Switchboard

This morning, I spent a while watching some old videos about transformation in the telephone industry.  Way back before my time, the growing telephone network depended on thousands of young women working as telephone operators (boys didn’t work out so well).

The need for telephone operators was so great that AT&T produced a movie “Operator!” to describe the wonderful opportunity for a career as a telephone switchboard operator!

 

However, as demand for telephone service boomed, someone estimated that it would soon take all the young women in the nation to work as telephone operators!  The solution – self-dialed telephones. it soon turned out that everyone who used a telephone became his or her own telephone operator!

But apparently, using a dial telephone was difficult enough that ever-so-scintillating training movies were produced …

Just think — most of today’s young people don’t know how to operation a dial telephone! A lost art indeed!

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First Round-the-World Telegram – 105 Years Ago!

Communications, History, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, August 20, 2016
9:42 am

Oh, how far technology has come in the last century!  As related by History.com, on August 20, 1911 (105 years ago today) a dispatcher in the New York Times office sent the first telegram around the world via commercial service. 

The Times decided to send its 1911 telegram in order to determine how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world by telegraph cable. The message, reading simply “This message sent around the world,” left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. on August 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores–among other locations–the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later. It was the fastest time achieved by a commercial cablegram since the opening of the Pacific cable in 1900 by the Commercial Cable Company.

Telegram

In these days of ubiquitous, near instantaneous global communications at our fingertips, it is a bit hard to fathom that a round-the-world message took over 16 minutes to reach its destination.  But in a time not too far removed from the Pony Express, 16 minutes was a real breakthrough.

As my Dad likes to say, “We stand on the broad shoulders of those who have gone before!”

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US Postal Service is 241 years old today!

History, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
9:30 pm

Franklinphone

As reported today by History.com,

On this day in 1775, the U.S. postal system is established by the Second Continental Congress, with Benjamin Franklin as its first postmaster general. 

Isn’t it ironic that we could easily imagine Benjamin Franklin as an enthusiastic early adopter of technology that is steadily rendering the traditional postal service obsolete?

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