Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

2010 is drawing to a close. Indeed, it is not long to go before I can open the Champagne and welcome in 2011! So it should be a good time to reflect on the past twelve months. The pagans used to burn the yule log for 12 days and some like to think that each day was devoted to reflecting on one of the preceding months. The first day of yule would be spent reflecting on January; the second on February and so on.

Fortunately for those of you who happen upon this blog, my memory isn't so good and I am incapable of remembering what happened yesterday never mind dream up something interesting to remark upon for each month of the year!

What I do remember, however, is this:

I felt very alone in January as I managed to get stuck in Oxford during some very heavy downfalls of snow. That said, I used the time wisely by visiting Rauls cocktail bar for something to warm the tummy!

My time in Oxford drew to a close. In a way, I miss the friends I made there. Matt and Fizzy-pop will be hard to forget!

I managed to finalise a new adapter for IBM Tivoli Identity Manager with some considerable input from RACF guru, Alan Harrison. The adapter is an extension of the IBM RACF Adapter but it reconciles additional information from the zSecure suite of utilities to give a complete view of RACF data from within ITIM. ITIM was enhanced to provide reporting functionality which allowed ITIM users to see vital RACF information and security breaches.

I know it was my birthday during this month. But for the life of me, I can't seem to remember too much about it. I do know that I was working on an HR Feeder mechanism for a Tier One bank. But, let's be honest, in the world of Identity Management, this is pretty much step 1! Been there. Done that. Countless times, even.

Nothing to say about May. Did it happen? Actually, I did knock together a website for a friend of mine one weekend.

I spent some time extending the OPAL-based APIScript for IBM Tivoli Identity Manager with functionality that should make the building of future ITIM environments a lot simpler!

My first forays into the world of IBM Tivoli Directory Integrator and Twitter integration. I was mildly excited by the possibilities even if the enterprise world is not!

Continuing my extra-curricular activities with TDI, I decided to see how Active MQ could be used to pull together a high-availabilty solution for TDI messaging. Results were positive though Active MQ isn't something I've actually come across in use by the customers I deal with. I got into some bother with some ladies this month! Owls Ladies Hockey Club wanted their website updated and I said I'd do it for free (as I do have a connection with Owls, albeit tenuous). So, another weekend lost, but the result seemed to please the girls:

I finalised TDI connectors for Google and Salesforce and even wrapped them in to ITIM Adapters. These are now being actively marketed by my employers, Pirean, and further details can be found on their website. My wife also coaxed me in to putting together a simple website for her one weekend... she wanted to showcase some of her artwork. Here's a plug for her work:

October was spent enjoying the sights and sounds of London on an engagement with one of the big universities in the city. Productivity seemed to be at an all-time high as integration guides for Tivoli Access Manager seemed to materialise with great rapidity! Lotus Connections, Quickr, MySource Matrix and Moodle integration were defined, tested and deployed at such a rate that I got called a Legend. I like that name. I like customers calling me Legend. I didn't realise how much I'd like it until it happened. It may never happen again, so I need to make sure that this particular episode is recorded for future posterity! For reference, it was dilftechnical who called me that.

I finally got round to posting an article about my Twitter connector for IBM Tivoli Directory Integrator based on an open-source OAuth library and JTwitter. I can only imagine that it was this article that prompted the great Eddie Hartman to phone me and also send me a Metamerge pen as a thank you. I shall treasure the pen always - or at least until it runs out of ink.

More snow. Thankfully, I spent most of the month working from home and rarely had to get out of my slippers never mind brave the 10 inches of snow outside my window!

So that was the year that was. Here's looking forward to a fabulous 2011. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Perils Of Privilieged Identities

It seems that Privileged Identity Management is the long-slumbering beast that has finally awoken and organisations are now scratching their heads wondering what it means to them and (more crucially) how they are going to address the problems posed by the it.

The issue of privileged accounts is certainly not a new one. Operating Systems have always had the concept of a root or administrator account, for example. These super accounts are not the kind of accounts that people should be using on a business as usual basis (though I suspect this "rule" is a case of Do As I Say, Not As I Do). Sometimes, though, there is just no way of getting around the need to access a system or application with a privileged account.

Rogue insider employees are on the increase, if press reports are to be believed. Indeed, it is probably a fair comment given that staff turnover has increased dramatically in recent years! So it makes a lot of sense to ensure that employees don't have permanent access to credentials that can cause damage to your IT infrastructure. And so... Privileged Identity Management has finally come of age.

Or has it?

IBM, earlier this year, announced an initiative based on the integration of Tivoli Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign On and Tivoli Identity Manager to address the needs of privileged access and details of their solution can be found in their Redguide publication: "Centrally Managing and Auditing Privileged User Identities by Using the IBM Integration Services for Privileged Identity Management".

It works on the basis of being able to elevate your privileges upon request and having TAM ESSO check-out the elevated privileges from an ITIM vault and inject the credentials into the target platform/application login sequence without the end user ever having to know the privileged account's password. Sounds like genius, right? Maybe. It certainly a neat way of taking the best bits of two fairly solid applications to cater for a gap in both products. And in the main it ought to work... at least for those applications that TAM ESSO can integrate with.

Most software applications that claim to provide a solution to the privileged access rights problem only seem to do so for either the Windows administrator accounts or the Unix administrator accounts and almost forget about those other special accounts that reside inside of applications. TAM ESSO can therefore help resolve that. However, this is only true for accessing a system with elevated privileges. What about changing passwords on a frequent basis and changing passwords after account use?

One of the reasons why privileged accounts have been causing so much pain is because organisations are scared to change the passwords for these accounts for fear that their systems will break! That's certainly a fair comment, in my opinion. We all know that applications shouldn't bind to a Directory Server with the cn=root account, but I bet they do. And when that account's password is changed, what will happen? Where within the application is the password for cn=root stored? In a properties file? In a database? How should the password be updated? Do we have to stop the application first? What if there are multiple applications using that account? Do we need a major outage of our systems? Maybe we should do it at a weekend, what do you think?

So the solution described in the Redguide publication goes a long way to plug a gap. The supposed industry leading solutions for Privileged Identity Management also go a long way to help alleviate the problem. But it seems to me that there are still issues needing addressing!

Ultimately, the right answer for delivering a solution will be dependent on:
  • the customer's appetite for solving the problem completely
  • the customer's appetite for risk
  • the customer's financial muscle when it comes to licensing software solutions