Risk
2/4/2013
04:10 PM
Gunnar Peterson
Gunnar Peterson
Commentary
50%
50%

Is SCIM The Shim You Have Been Looking For?

SCIM is designed to solve common, real-world scenarios while managing users across cloud and enterprise domains, but incentives will drive its success

The recent announcement that Ross Anderson's "Security Engineering" book is available for free is great. This book is top-tier and a must-read for any infosec pro. One of the things I learned from Anderson's work is that security isn't just policies, mechanisms, and assurance. Incentives matter a lot, too.

Security engineering is a lot about finding the right standards. Today this often means handicapping the probabilities as to which standards will gain widespread adoption, as SAML has, or lie dormant, as SPML has. It matters a lot because designing for industry standards is an extra step that pays off only if the standard gets taken up by a broad community.

Analyzing standards has a lot to do with understanding the use cases the standard is trying to solve, the strength and review of the security mechanisms, and how it can be integrated. But trying to surmise how well adopted it will be, especially now, means understanding the incentives as to who might use it.

To say there has been a flurry of work in identity standards during the past decade might be the understatement of, well, the decade. But of all these identity standards, there has been precious little in provisioning (a gap that the provisioning vendors are happy to feast on with high six- and seven-figure projects), but with the progress SCIM is making this may be changing.

On a technical level, SCIM is a REST API for user management across domains. The standard defines account provisioning events and triggers, user and group schemas, and mapping layers. The ability to push and pull accounts to/from enterprise and cloud apps is a problem that the industry has dealt with for a long time; standards (as opposed to ad-hoc projects) are very welcome here.

But whether SCIM gets broad adoption is less about how its API works and probably more about how it aligns incentives for ecosystem participants. This is where I think it looks pretty compelling. The enterprise couldn't care less about provisioning in and of itself. It cares about having an authoritative source, that it's consistent, and that it's auditable. The simplest way to achieve this is the main goal.

For the enterprise using cloud apps, it also cares that it can publish user and group data. SCIM helps here, and so it also helps the cloud vendors that want to onboard as many users as quickly as possible.

If SCIM progresses, then where this leaves traditional IAM suite vendors is anybody's guess. I expect it means that the provisioning systems will continue to evolve more into business process automation, such as offering more just-in-time provisioning where user data is pulled in and assembled as needed based on event types. But the incentives will play a role alongside the technology and policy pieces.

Gunnar Peterson is a Managing Principal at Arctec Group Gunnar Peterson (@oneraindrop) works on AppSec - Cloud, Mobile and Identity. He maintains a blog at http://1raindrop.typepad.com. View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-6501
Published: 2015-03-30
The default soap.wsdl_cache_dir setting in (1) php.ini-production and (2) php.ini-development in PHP through 5.6.7 specifies the /tmp directory, which makes it easier for local users to conduct WSDL injection attacks by creating a file under /tmp with a predictable filename that is used by the get_s...

CVE-2014-9652
Published: 2015-03-30
The mconvert function in softmagic.c in file before 5.21, as used in the Fileinfo component in PHP before 5.4.37, 5.5.x before 5.5.21, and 5.6.x before 5.6.5, does not properly handle a certain string-length field during a copy of a truncated version of a Pascal string, which might allow remote atta...

CVE-2014-9653
Published: 2015-03-30
readelf.c in file before 5.22, as used in the Fileinfo component in PHP before 5.4.37, 5.5.x before 5.5.21, and 5.6.x before 5.6.5, does not consider that pread calls sometimes read only a subset of the available data, which allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (uninitialized memory ...

CVE-2014-9705
Published: 2015-03-30
Heap-based buffer overflow in the enchant_broker_request_dict function in ext/enchant/enchant.c in PHP before 5.4.38, 5.5.x before 5.5.22, and 5.6.x before 5.6.6 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via vectors that trigger creation of multiple dictionaries.

CVE-2014-9709
Published: 2015-03-30
The GetCode_ function in gd_gif_in.c in GD 2.1.1 and earlier, as used in PHP before 5.5.21 and 5.6.x before 5.6.5, allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (buffer over-read and application crash) via a crafted GIF image that is improperly handled by the gdImageCreateFromGif function.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Good hackers--aka security researchers--are worried about the possible legal and professional ramifications of President Obama's new proposed crackdown on cyber criminals.