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29 posts tagged with "identity provider"

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Machine-to-machine communication in authentik

· 8 min read
Jens Langhammer
CTO at Authentik Security Inc

authentik is a unified identity platform that helps with all of your authentication needs, replacing Okta, Active Directory, Auth0, and more. Building on the open-source project, Authentik Security Inc is a public benefit company that provides additional features and dedicated support.

We have provided M2M communication in authentik for the past year, and in this blog we want to share some more information about how it works in authentik, and take a look at three use cases.

What is M2M?

Broadly speaking, M2M communication is the process by which machines (devices, laptops, servers, smart appliances, or more precisely the client interface of any thing that can be digitally communicated with) exchange data. Machine-to-machine communication is an important component of IoT, the Internet of Things; M2M is how all of the “things” communicate. So M2M is more about the communication between the devices, while IoT is the larger, more complex, overarching technology.

Interestingly, M2M is also implemented as a communication process between business systems, such as banking services, or payroll workflows. One of the first fields to heavily utilize M2M is the oil and gas industry; everything from monitoring the production (volume, pressure, etc.) of gas wells, to tracking fleets of trucks and sea vessels, to the health of pipelines can be done using M2M communication.

Financial systems, analytics, really any work that involves multi-machine data processing, can be optimized using M2M.

“Machine to machine systems are the key to reliable data processing with near to zero errors” (source)

Where there is communication in software systems, there is both authentication and authorization. The basic definition of the terms is that authentication is about assessing and verifying WHO (the person, device, thing) is involved, while authorization is about what access rights that person or device has. So we choose to use the phrase “machine-to-machine communication” in order to capture both of those important aspects.

Or we could use fun terms like AuthN (authentication) and AuthZ (authorization).

So in some ways you can think of M2M as being like an internal API, with data (tokens and keys and certs and all thing access-related) being passed back and forth, but specifically for authentication and authorization processes.

"Screenshot of authentik UI"

Black box security software can’t keep up with open source

· 9 min read
Jens Langhammer
CTO at Authentik Security Inc

authentik is an open source Identity Provider that unifies your identity needs into a single platform, replacing Okta, Active Directory, and auth0. Authentik Security is a public benefit company building on top of the open source project.

Legacy security vendors that rely on black box development can't keep up with open source. It's an oft-discussed topic—the ability of open source communities to quickly jump in and collectively solve problems and innovate solutions—but it is equally believed that "serious" security software companies have proprietary software.

In this blog, we will take a closer look at the pros and cons of the various source availability types of SSO and other security software.


Sourcegraph security incident: the good, the bad, and the dangers of access tokens

· 7 min read
Jens Langhammer
CTO at Authentik Security Inc

Access tokens make identity management and authentication relatively painless for our end-users. But, like anything to do with access, tokens also can be fraught with risk and abuse.

The recent announcement from Sourcegraph that their platform had been penetrated by a malicious hacker using a leaked access token is a classic example of this balance of tokens being great… until they are in the wrong hands.

This incident prompts all of us in the software industry to take yet another look at how our security around user identity and access can be best handled, to see if there are lessons to be learned and improvements to be made. These closer looks are not only at how our own software and users utilizes (and protects) access tokens, but also in how such incidents are caught, mitigated, and communicated.

Photo by Anton Maksimov on Unsplash

Announcing the authentik Enterprise release!

· 3 min read
Jens Langhammer
CTO at Authentik Security Inc

📣 We are happy to announce that the first authentik Enterprise release is here! 🎉

The Enterprise release of authentik provides all of the functionality that we have spent years building in our open source product, plus dedicated support and account management. This Enterprise version is available in Preview mode in our latest release, 2023.8.

This is an exciting step for us, as we grow the team and the company and our user base. We officially became a company just last fall (I wrote about it in November 2022, in “The next step for authentik"), and this release is another move forwards in maturing authentik into the SSO and identity management app of choice.

One thing we want to acknowledge, up front, is that we would never have been able to achieve this goal without the years of support from our open source community. You all helped build authentik into what it is today, and that’s why all of our Enterprise-level features will be open core and source available, always.

My hobby became my job, 50% extra pay, just needed to let go of GPLv3

· 5 min read
Jens Langhammer
CTO at Authentik Security Inc

There’s been a lot of discussion about licensing in the news, with Red Hat and now Hashicorp notably adjusting their licensing models to be more “business friendly,” and Codecov (proudly, and mistakenly) pronouncing they are now “open source.”

“Like the rest of them, they have redefined ‘Open’ as in ‘Open for business’”—jquast on Hacker News

This is a common tension when you’re building commercially on top of open source, so I wanted to share some reflections from my own experience of going from MIT, to GPL, back to MIT.

"Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash"

Let’s make identity fun again (whether we build it or buy it)

· 12 min read
Jens Langhammer
CTO at Authentik Security Inc

Identity – whether we’re talking about internal authentication (think Auth0) or external authentication (think Okta) – has become boring.

Little else proves this better than the fact that Okta and Auth0 are now the same company and that their primary competitor, Microsoft AD, survives based on bundling and momentum. Identity has become a commodity – a component you buy off the shelf, integrate, and ignore.

Of course, taking valuable things for granted isn’t always bad. We might regularly drive on roads we don’t think much about, for example, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable.

The danger with letting identity become boring is that we’re not engaging in the problem and we’re letting defaults drive the conversation rather than context-specific needs. We’re not engaging in the solution because we’re not encouraging a true buy vs. build discussion.

My pitch: Let’s make identity fun again. And in doing so, let’s think through a better way to decide whether to build or buy software.


The tightrope walk of authentication: a balance of convenience and security

· 8 min read
Jens Langhammer
CTO at Authentik Security Inc

In scenarios where security is offered as optional, there's an inherent risk. Customers, particularly those with a limited knowledge of digital security, might not fully comprehend its significance or choose to sidestep these features due to budget constraints. However, these seemingly inconsequential choices can expose users to significant risks. Without proper security measures in place, customers can become vulnerable to security breaches, putting their sensitive data at risk.

This situation raises a pressing question: how do we strike a balance in this landscape that is fair to both users and providers? Ensuring user convenience while maintaining robust security measures is complicated. If we lean too heavily towards convenience, we risk compromising on security. Conversely, an overemphasis on stringent security measures may lead to a complex and off-putting user experience.

Supply chain attacks: what we can all do better

· 9 min read
Jens Langhammer
CTO at Authentik Security Inc

Supply chains, whether for automotive parts or microprocessors, are complex, as we all know from recent history. Modern software, with more components than ever and automated package management, is also complex, and this complexity provides a rich environment for supply chain attacks. Supply chain attacks inject malicious code into an application via the building blocks of the application (for example, dependencies) in order to compromise the app in order to infect multiple users.

JWT: A token that changed how we see identity

· 8 min read
Jens Langhammer
CTO at Authentik Security Inc
Tana Berry
Sr. Technical Content Editor at Authentik Security Inc

Even though JWTs (JSON Web Tokens, pronounced “jots”) have been around since 2010, it’s worth examining their more recent rise to become the dominant standard for managing authentication requests for application access.

When JWTs were first introduced, it was immediately clear that they were already an improvement on using a single string to represent the user information needed for authentication. The single string credential method was simple, but not as secure. There was no way to provide additional data or internal checks about the validity of the string or its issuer. With JWTs, there are expanded capabilities with more parts; there is a header, JSON-encoded payloads (called “claims”, which hold data about the user and about the token itself, such as an expiration date), and a signature (either a private key or a private/public key combination).

Let’s look a bit more closely at what a JWT is, review a short history of JWT evolutions and adoption, then discuss how JWTs are used in authentik.