Exploring Digital Identity in .NET

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Exploring Digital Identity
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The United States is not yet to the point of issuing everyone national ID cards with RFID (radio frequency identification) chips inside, so for practical access to systems and applications, your organization s HR office likely requests some form of digital credential for each employee from the IT department. A digital credential is no different from an ID card in the physical world. It s used to represent the person for access to end-user workstations, networks, and computer applications. The digital ID is simply the username or user ID (a username is often referred to as a user ID) a series of keystrokes that is unique to your organization and can be used to purport an identity to the networks, computers, and applications. The digital representation of a person s identity is no different from one in the paper world. The risks are nearly identical, and a user ID can be compromised
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5
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in some of the same ways a driver s license number can be. A user ID can be guessed, stolen and used by someone else, lost, or forgotten. Some IT systems use other digital ID means, such as magnetic swipe cards, RFID chips, and similar technologies, which are not necessarily any better for representing identity. These technologies are better used as a part of the authentication discussion. They are practical as identity information only in that they may save the steps of entering the user ID into a keyboard. They do nothing to enhance the concept of identity because there s really no difference between a username being typed in or read from some card. It is still just someone on the distant end of a wire purporting to be some identity that your systems and application are supposed to recognize and grant some services to.
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Research each device you intend to use or in which you re already invested, and learn what features are present in the hardware, firmware, or software that run it that can present the device s identity to the network or to other devices. Determine if using them can increase the overall access control and security strategy for your systems and applications.
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TIPS FOR INCREASING USERNAME SECURITY
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Here are some steps that can be taken to enhance the credibility of an access user ID:
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Use a very wide field for entering the user ID in login screens even if the
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IDs require fewer keystrokes. This makes a hacker s attempts more difficult because the length also has to be guessed.
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Require your system and application end users to keep not only their
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usernames secret but the syntax secret as well. If a hacker does not know the required orderly arrangement, attempts to breach through with a valid identity will be more difficult.
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Do not use lame, easy-to-guess combinations such as last name and first
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initial as starting points for usernames.
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Use a different syntax for each group of users to make internal attempts
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to breach user identity more difficult. Do not select obvious patterns such as appending to user Dave the letters acctn because he works in accounting or to Mary purc because she is in purchasing. There is little or no cost involved in implementing these ideas, and by doing so, the user ID becomes more passwordlike. The fact that it is a kept secret, there is no apparent like syntax and no obvious connection to a person s identity information, and no two employees with the same job share a same syntax all help to complicate attempts to inappropriately co-opt a coworker s username.
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The newer the devices you are using, the more likely identity features are available. List the features presented for each device, and establish whether there is value in using each of them in your environment; have a good reason to reject their use. For example, a router can be configured simply to route network traffic, to move data packets to the correct communication pipelines. That same router may be capable of supporting IPSec or 3DES encryption of the traffic, or may support inline intrusion prevention. Some routers, properly configured, can also function as a firewall. Frequently systems are breached because manufacturer s available features were not used, despite those features having no negatives attached to their use in the IT environment. Don t let that happen to the systems for which you are responsible.
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