Feeds

Microsoft lines up with the good guys on identity tech

Brands and Cameron pitch the fix for government's Big ID problem

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Dr Brands is evidently delighted about the U-Prove sale, which had been under discussion for two years. "There is no industry player around I believe in as much as Microsoft with regard to its commitment to build security and privacy into IT systems and applications," he says. He points to Microsoft's existing presence throughout the target markets for ID and access management, and its influence both on the client and server side of the application. "It is easy to say why this is a perfect match."

Mr Cameron sees U-Prove's minimal disclosure tokens as base features of emerging identity platforms which will lead to the safest possible Internet: "I don't think the point here is ultimately to make a dollar. It's about building a system of identity that can withstand the ravages that the Internet will unleash. That will be worth billions." He looks forward to good privacy practice becoming one of the norms of e-commerce.

The prospect is that Brands' minimal disclosure tokens, with their properties of selective disclosure, unlinkability, and powerful revocation capabilities, will be built with half a dozen man-years' development effort into the Windows Cardspace user interface arising from Mr Cameron's work, and also into the underlying Windows Communication Foundation.

If U-Prove is available in WCF that makes it available to any applications on the Windows platform. U-Prove is also covered by Microsoft's (not wholly uncontroversial) Open Specification Promise.

MS as ID standards hero?

Now that the world knows it is Microsoft – instead of a Nokia, Google or IBM – that has acquired Dr Brands' patents there is concern on just how U-Prove will be used competitively. A statesmanlike market leader can afford the view that a safe online world for all is prerequisite for the health of their future market. But Microsoft has a history as an inveterate playground bully that rivals don't easily forget.

Mr Cameron protests that times have changed: "I can guarantee everyone that I have zero intention of hoarding minimal disclosure tokens or turning U-Prove into a proprietary Microsoft technology silo. Like, it's 2008, right? Give me a break, guys!" Dr Brands echoes the point: "It's very clear to me that's not why the people who pushed for the deal wanted to do this."

The outstanding question is how well the undoubted intentions and integrity of both men will stand up to the residual primitive and exploitative tendencies that still reside in large parts of Microsoft.

So, why is this acquisition so important for us in the UK?

It's not just about general cybercrime and data losses, although the UK suffers from that as much as anywhere. It's about the broad thrust of government IT plans. The UK's "Transformational Government" public-sector IT strategy is written and implemented by people who have yet to take a privacy-friendly approach to single sign-on and data sharing. And they've managed to marginalise the very small number of people inside government who appreciate Dr Brands' work.

To say the acquisition is important to UK government is not to say that Whitehall should now buy more Microsoft products – indeed part of the problem was that Tony Blair was seduced by Bill Gates, and Whitehall was locked by Microsoft into a Hailstorm-era way of thinking with its central authentication and health services. When Scott McNealy pointed out the dangers of Hailstorm UK e-Envoy Andrew Pinder scornfully and publicly retorted that the Sun boss was simply jealous that Bill Gates' firm was bigger and more successful than his.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Redmond resists order to hand over overseas email
Court wanted peek as related to US investigation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?