Infrastructure

5 reasons why you should take Single Sign-on seriously

F2MKE BlogA recent report by the credit checking company Experian warned that the average online consumer had 26 separate online logins but just 5 different passwords.

Two thirds of people have accounts they no longer use but have not closed down, leaving them vulnerable, the research found.  Every week we learn about new and major hacks leading to the comprising of our usernames and passwords.

In July 2012 we have already heard about the ‘loss’ of 450,000 Yahoo identities, over 1 Million Android forum IDs, 20% of all Microsoft account credentials – where they had been reused on other websites – and LinkedIn hacked twice in as many months.

It is all too easy to reuse the same ID – typically your email address together with your favourite password – when registering with different websites online.  The problem – and the very real threat – is that it only takes one of these websites to fail in keeping that ID and password safe and suddenly your online information and access across many different websites is in jeopardy.  What’s more, you may not even realise until you go to apply for a credit card, loan, mobile phone, or mortgage and are refused.  Perhaps worse still, the debt collectors come knocking upon your door!  Even if you do discover that a website you use has ben compromised, can you really remember all of the websites that you signed up to using the same ID and password so that you can sign-in and change your login credentials?

Standards-based Single Sign-on is one killer tool in your defence arsenal!  The following 5 reasons pretty much cover the benefits of using the Single Sign-on technology Oauth for your social online world and Shibboleth if you are in the classroom.

Popular Oauth Identity Providers include Twitter, Facebook and Google.  For more about the prevailing Shibboleth standard in education, simply search this website.

Now for those 5 reasons:

1) When you connect to a new website, application, or service provider using Oauth or Shibboleth, your username and password is not shared with, or stored in, that provider’s system.  If it’s hacked, your ID and password stays safe.

2) It is good practice, alongside having a complex password, to change that password often.  In the Shibboleth and Oauth Single Sign-on model, you can do this just once and in one place resulting in all of your other online presences relating to this change.

3) If you suspect that your password has been compromised, as with (2), you change it once and in one place.  No need to try to remember what you’ve signed up for and how to get there!

4) A single username and password for everything leaves space in your memory for other things; like remembering to pick-up some milk, or the kids, on your way home from work.  Oh and less reason to write it down too!

5) There are SO many great online resources out there asking you to sign up.  Can you really trust the honesty and security of them all?  With true Single Sign-on you can register with the peace of mind that they haven’t got hold of your username and password – often they shouldn’t even need to ‘know’ other personal details such as your name.

So there you have it.  Single Sign-on together with a ‘strong’ and frequently changed password will keep thing more simple and more secure for your online adventures.

The Server-less School

With an open standards integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) available, could we see the dawn of a server-less school?  What’s needed?

– An Identity Management (IdM) service with automated Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) integration with a school’s Management Information System (MIS);

– A Shibboleth federated Single Sign-on (SSo) Identity Provider (IdP) service;

– A Zone Integration Server (ZIS) service.

The extent of ‘Cloud’ application services compatible with the iPaaS summarised above could negate the need for Local Area Network (LAN) hosted directory, file and application servers..?  If we can show that proxy and caching servers are also redundant, then we are well on the way to a server-less school.  What does this mean?  In short, this means less infrastructure and related hard, soft and management costs overhead, together with fewer things to go wrong when relying upon Internet access for teaching & learning. This approach also lends itself to a device agnostic Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy.  The following image visualises this idea…

 

Future School

What is Shibboleth and the UK Access Management Federation (UKAMF)?

Shibboleth is an open source and standards based software package for web Single Sign-on (SSo). It allows software services and applications to make informed authorisation decisions for individual access of online resources in a privacy-preserving manner.

http://shibboleth.internet2.edu/about.html

In the United Kingdom, the UK Access Management Federation (UKAMF) provides a single solution to accessing online resources and services for education and research using the Shibboleth software.  Identity Providers (IdP) and Service Providers (SP) can register with the UKAMF by following a set of procedures and implementing agreed to policies.

http://www.ukfederation.org.uk/

The best explanation I have found so far about how Shibboleth and the UKAMF works is in the following video…

Reaching for the Cloud

BETT Show Michael PickettOn Thursday 12th January 2012 I had the nerve-racking pleasure of presenting Norfolk’s deployment of Google Apps for Education and Chromebook pilot from the Google stand at the BETT Show 2012.

This was Google’s first presence at the BETT Show and wow were they continuously packed! The stand was brilliant – an outdoor classroom theme with an awesome Google Science Fair smoothie bar – drinks served in test tubes!

Despite my nerves, enhanced by the packed audience and pointed video camera, I think that my presentation was well received – judging by the staying put of the crowd and queue of questioners afterwards. Well, the video evidence will either confirm or dispel this notion!

The expressions of intensified interest when I talked about Norfolk having the largest single domain UK public sector implementation of Google Apps – 148,000 registered users – were welcomed. Further err Googling suggests that this may well be the largest single domain deployment in the World!  More on this to come (hopefully) courtesy of a write-up by http://www.computerworlduk.com/.

Interest seemed to further swell as I talked about how Google’s open standards enabled us to sit Apps for Education over our standards based Cloud infrastructure with its core components including Identity Management, Shibboleth for Single Sign-on (SSo) and the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) for the secure and automated movement of data around the system.

If you are still interested then the following slides accompanied my presentation…

The quiet Google Apps and Chromebooks revolution

Over the past few weeks I have been assessing how best we can deploy and manage a set of Google Chromebooks to be piloted across a group of schools.  We already have an enterprise deployment of Google Apps for Education with approximately 130,000 users grouped into around 450 Organisational Units.  The entire user and organisational management is efficiently streamlined using the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF); new users, transient users and leavers are all near-time captured through SIF making account management a breeze!

How does this work?  (1) The school Management Information System (MIS) is updated – pupils and staff intake, leavers, or changes – and modifications are transported securely via SIF and the (2) Zone Integration Server (ZIS) to the Identity Management (IdM) server.  Here users identities are matched or created.  (3) Then the identities are passed via SIF to the ZIS and then (4) on to Google Apps.

SIF Identity Management

Now here’s the cloud clever bit… Before deployment to your users, each Google Chromebook is registered with your organisation’s Google Apps domain using the management console.  Here you can define a multitude of policy options including which applications, or extensions, a user should, or should not, have access to.  Policies can be defined for different organisational units – pupils and staff, sales and marketing, etc. – and updated at any time.  Any user who signs-in in to any registered Chromebook will automatically receive the profile relevant to them.  Organisational Unit policy changes are automatically applied the next time a user signs-in, or after a set time period.

Chromebook Management

This is a fantastic example of how simple, powerful, efficient and cost effective cloud computing really can be.  No expensive domain servers to maintain and house.  No network intensive traditional roaming profiles.  Easy management from any place in the world with an Internet connection.  Flexible and mobile workforce and learners.

Google Trends

What’s trending in Google today?

First up is the Systems Interoperability Framework

Most searched for images…

The growth of Twitter…

UK Government seeks a common infrastructure built on open standards

The UK Government’s Cabinet Office has announced a strategy to deliver real financial savings and efficiency gains through the agile implementation of an ICT infrastructure that will enable the reuse and sharing of our ICT assets.

In a move that is believed to reduce the high level of risk associated with large scale ICT projects, the infrastrtucture will build upon the successes of smaller projects that have transformed services through the use of common and open standards.  By encouraging and in some cases mandating the use of open standards, joining-up all of these pockets of smaller projects to form a supportive, comfortable and long lasting king size infrastructure mattress will be simpler.

Some key points to note:

The Government will push ahead with its agenda for data centre, network, software and asset consolidation and the shift towards cloud computing.

The standardised cloud platform will also allow developers, especially SMEs, to generate innovative solutions.

A common infrastructure based on open standards will allow for greater flexibility of policies and services delivered at lower cost and within a shorter timeframe.

The use of common standards can make ICT solutions fully interoperable to allow for reuse, sharing and scalability across organisational boundaries into local delivery chains.

The adoption of compulsory open standards will help government to avoid lengthy vendor lock-in, allowing the transfer of services or suppliers without excessive transition costs, loss of data or significant functionality.

Modern, knowledge-based service delivery underpinned by effective information architecture and open standards will support government to build more transparent, trusted and efficient information exchange processes.

Read more at http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/content/government-ict-strategy

At Number 5 in The Gadget Show’s Top 5 Tech for 2011 is…

…Cloud Computing.

 

http://fwd.channel5.com/gadget-show/videos/top-5/top-5-tech-in-2011

Influence UK Government technology standards now!

UK Government Open Standards Survey

I’m not sure how well publicised this Cabinet Office survey has been..? I stumbled across it whilst searching for something quite different.  The closing date is 20th May 2011 – so complete it today!

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/UKGovOpenStandards

The results from this survey will be reviewed by the Chief Technology Officers Council and their conclusions will be published on the Cabinet Office website in the Autumn.

Here’s the background…

Government must be better connected to the people it serves and the partners who can work with it – especially small businesses, voluntary and community organisations.  Government ICT must play a fundamental role in making life easier.

One of our first goals is to organise Government data and systems using an agreed set of standards that make our ICT more open, cheaper and better connected.  To do this, we need to know which standards are most important to you.

The survey ends on 20 May 2011.  We’ve included free-text fields in the survey, so you can tell us what we have missed or which alternative standards you believe may be better.  The results from this survey will be reviewed by the Chief Technology Officers Council and their conclusions will be published on the Cabinet Office website in the Autumn.  Bear with us whilst we work through your suggestions and please understand that we’ll have to prioritise our responses.

 

Interoperability across the UK

A picture speaks a thousand words… And this one, a map showing the official spread of Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF) implementations across England and Wales, says it all!  I’m sure that in time there will be a map to reflect the wider UK, including Northern Ireland and Scotland where there are already implementations.

UK Interoperability Map (Jan 2011)You can click on the map image to go to the UK SIF Association’s fully annotated PDF version, or visit http://goo.gl/1RXsn.

Do you have a SIF implementation in your area that you want to talk about and add to the blue on the map?  Get in touch now with the UK SIF Association at https://www.sifassociation.org/uk/.