Why we need claims in Windows

Microsoft has introduced the concept of claims-based securitywith it's "Geneva" project. Claims are sort of attributes which are provided by identity providers in the form of tokens and consumed by applications. In fact they are one way to make federation easier and more user centric. "Geneva" provides the tools at all levels to work with claims. The concept of claims is used by some other groups at Microsoft and we probably will see several Microsoft applications with support for claims within the next months.

However, the biggest impact might be on the Windows operating system itself. Claims could make that much more flexible from a security management perspective than today's mainly ACL-based security model. ACLs are too static and too complex in management to really fulfill the customer needs today. Not only in Windows, but in other operating systems as well. If you think about an operating system which consists of services (Service Providers, Relying Parties) and relies on Identity Providers to provide claims, the entire Security Management can become much more efficient. Based on Policies, using dynamically provided claims. Authorization might be done by the services based on policies and claims or by specialized authorization engines within the operating systems on behalf of the services (the latter not yet being part of "Geneva").

It is, without any doubt, not that easy to perform such a fundamental change. ACLs are at least somewhat understood, claims are new. There has to be a migration path and compatibility. But if we look at all the options we have, claims appear to be the most promising concept for the future security at the operating system level. One interesting side effect is that the same policies might be applied to other elements in the security infrastructure as well - external access management tools and so on.

Meet me at European Identity Conference 2010 and Cloud 2010 Conference, Munich, May 4th to 7th.



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