Feeds

Microsoft's Geneva Server: Hailstorm done right

Hard lessons for Google, Facebook and Microsoft

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

PDC Microsoft's notorious Hailstorm project, announced in 2001 but scrapped before it was launched, sought to make Passport the core of the whole world's web identity. In 2008, major web properties like Google and Facebook are still fighting identity wars.

"Microsoft just gave that up," Microsoft's chief architect of identity Kim Cameron said at Microsoft's Professional Developers' Conference (PDC). "That's the importance of the announcements we gave yesterday. Microsoft said 'no'."

Those announcements, made at the show, were about the identity product codenamed Geneva, which includes a server, a code library for applications, and the CardSpace client buried in Internet Explorer 7 and 8.

Let's start with CardSpace. It was released in 2006 and widely ignored, even by Microsoft. I had assumed it was destined to join Bob in the Microsoft graveyard. That would be a shame, because CardSpace is damn clever, and reflects Cameron's work on the Laws of Identity, which like Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics are intended to prevent technology from doing us harm.

CardSpace has its own user interface, built into the browser, so it is hard for a phishing site to fake it and steal credentials. When you log in, the server that wants to know who you are - Relying Party, in identity lingo - requests a security token. CardSpace passes on the request to the identity provider, normally a directory of some sort, and at this point, the user gives credentials such as username and password, or something better, to the identity provider.

The directory issues the token, complete with the requested information in encrypted form, and sends it back to CardSpace, which then forwards it to the Relying Party. Wins: no phishing, only the information requested is sent, no actual credentials are sent to the Relying Party, and the user is in control. The security token cannot easily be faked, since only the real identity provider can sign it with the right digital certificate.

If the technology is so great, why has nobody used it? One reason is that Microsoft only delivered the client. Creating the necessary Security Token Service (STS) for an identity provider was hard.

"We've tortured developers," said Cameron. "We ourselves didn't have any server software that would work with it. There was no product on the back end. Now our whole marketing team is going to take this out.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
It's Big, it's Blue... it's simply FABLESS! IBM's chip-free future
Or why the reversal of globalisation ain't gonna 'appen
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Microsoft and Dell’s cloud in a box: Instant Azure for the data centre
A less painful way to run Microsoft’s private cloud
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
CAGE MATCH: Microsoft, Dell open co-located bit barns in Oz
Whole new species of XaaS spawning in the antipodes
AWS pulls desktop-as-a-service from the PC
Support for PCoIP protocol means zero clients can run cloudy desktops
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.