Perimeter
10/10/2012
09:58 PM
Gunnar Peterson
Gunnar Peterson
Commentary
50%
50%

Walking The Mobile Mile

Putting the 'i' in identity means navigating the hidden complexities in mobile identity

Mobile applications have disparate characteristics from normal Web applications and so demand different requirements from developers. This in turn drives the need for new security models. When enterprises write mobile apps, they are not simply delivering data to the customers as in a Web app, they are delivering code that interacts with the mobile device OS, data, and security tokens (and beacons) that will reside on the device for some period of time.

This opens a window of vulnerability for devices that are lost, stolen, or compromised by malware. The enterprise response has been largely focused on Mobile Device Management (MDM), which closes out several important gaps through services like remote wipe. Today, MDM is a sina qua non technology for many enterprises but its not sufficient by itself to get the job done for mobile. After all, as Paul Madsen posits: "If my CEO and I both have the same phone, is the device the right level of granularity?" Further, the device is only one asset in play.

To get a full picture of the risk involved, you must look end to end. Mobile apps do introduce new risks, but it's not just about the device its about how they connect up to the enterprise. Mobile Access Management (MAM) -- access control services that sit in front of the enterprise gateway -- has emerged as a server-side guard enforcing access-control policy for requests from the mobile app to the enterprise back end. Mobile apps get the lion's share of attention, but do not neglect the Web services that provide the wormhole from the iPhone straight into the enterprise core mainframes, databasesm and back end services.

MAM provides mobile-specific security services for the server side. But what about the app on the device? Yet a different set of controls called Mobile Information Management (MIM) enable policy-based communication on the device.

Confused yet? The result in the short run is that the enterprise's identity architecture must factor in many different kinds of identity claims needed to resolve an access-control decision, including the device identity claims (such as hardware fingerprint), the mobile app identity claims (such as the Android PID), the local/mobile user identity claims, and the server-side identity claims. From there, these claims about an identity must be resolved and need to work cohesively across a mobile session, mobile-to-server communication session, and, in some cases, mobile app-to-mobile app communication.

This makes for a real challenge -- difficult, but not impossible, getting consistent policy enforcement across sessions, devices, and servers. As with so much else in security, there are no silver bullets. There's no single product to solve all of these challenge. The mobile app provides a new set of challenges -- specifically an integration challenge -- and likely requires different protocols than enterprises have used in the past, such as OpenID Connect and OAuth. Identity requires first-mile integration (identity provider) and last-mile integration (service provider). But, in addition, mobile "mile" integration requires meshing an array of disparate identities and attributes to enforce consistent policy.

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
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-9710
Published: 2015-05-27
The Btrfs implementation in the Linux kernel before 3.19 does not ensure that the visible xattr state is consistent with a requested replacement, which allows local users to bypass intended ACL settings and gain privileges via standard filesystem operations (1) during an xattr-replacement time windo...

CVE-2014-9715
Published: 2015-05-27
include/net/netfilter/nf_conntrack_extend.h in the netfilter subsystem in the Linux kernel before 3.14.5 uses an insufficiently large data type for certain extension data, which allows local users to cause a denial of service (NULL pointer dereference and OOPS) via outbound network traffic that trig...

CVE-2015-1157
Published: 2015-05-27
CoreText in Apple iOS 8.x through 8.3 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (reboot and messaging disruption) via crafted Unicode text that is not properly handled during display truncation in the Notifications feature, as demonstrated by Arabic characters in (1) an SMS message or (2)...

CVE-2015-2666
Published: 2015-05-27
Stack-based buffer overflow in the get_matching_model_microcode function in arch/x86/kernel/cpu/microcode/intel_early.c in the Linux kernel before 4.0 allows context-dependent attackers to gain privileges by constructing a crafted microcode header and leveraging root privileges for write access to t...

CVE-2015-2830
Published: 2015-05-27
arch/x86/kernel/entry_64.S in the Linux kernel before 3.19.2 does not prevent the TS_COMPAT flag from reaching a user-mode task, which might allow local users to bypass the seccomp or audit protection mechanism via a crafted application that uses the (1) fork or (2) close system call, as demonstrate...

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
After a serious cybersecurity incident, everyone will be looking to you for answers -- but you’ll never have complete information and you’ll never have enough time. So in those heated moments, when a business is on the brink of collapse, how will you and the rest of the board room executives respond?