Identity Management is a universal problem
When I pay my electric bill I usually just call the power company and give them my credit card. This month I decided that I should go set up auto payments on the web site and be done with it. So I opened the power company web site and attempted to login. Clearly the site recognized me, the login name I usually use was being recognized, but I just could not remember my password. I tried all of the normal passwords I use and none of them were working.
So I attempted to retrieve my password, it gave me an option of having the password reset sent to my email address or answering secret questions. I opted to have it sent to my email address. I waited. Nothing showed up in my email box. I looked in the spam folder, still nothing. I went back to the web site and this time I opted for being asked the secret question…..”What is your favorite color”. Oh man, I don’t know. Depends on my mood and what day it is. I don’t remember what I put in there for my favorite color. Ok. Let’s try “Blue.” Good, that worked. Wow. I am in. Hey. This isn’t my account? WTF?
Now I know there are two other Craig Burton’s living in Utah. Apparently I have just accessed the electricity billing account of one of them by guessing both the user name and secret question. And the secret question was “blue?”
Off the top of my head I would say the Electric Company has a severe security leak in it.
Of course I didn’t do anything to this account. I could see that his email address was just sent another request to change the name and password. I hope he did that.
This was an ugly incident that could have been much uglier if I was malicious.
Here is my point, a uniform cloud-based Identity management system could be used to prevent this kind of thing. As it stands, every single web site has its own set of code used to prevent inappropriate access. A scenario bound to create the blatant hole I ran into.
Of course the other side of the coin is that if the cloud-based identity management system had a hole in it, everybody would have the hole. Then again, the fix would fix everybody. Trade-offs but I still think the cloud-based Identity Management as a Service is where we are headed in the future.
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