Identity: the heart of all security problems

The joke is, on the internet, no-one knows you're a dog. In fact, weak identity remains one of IT's core security problems.

As such, they struggle to scale in the way that secure identity needs to scale, if it is to help solve those day-to-day problems. Some of these problems are fairly basic, even if industry has so far failed to solve them.

Is the right person accessing the right records on a database? Is that laptop encrypted? Is sensitive email being viewed only by those who are entitled to see it? Is the person using mobile banking, who they claim to be?

"Imagine being able to simply and easily be able to authenticate that an email came from the person who sent it," says Simmonds; "automatically send and receive mail securely or determine that an email is genuinely from your bank?" Simply being able to do that would cut out many cyber attacks, as well as reducing nuisances such as spam.

The type of system the Global Identity Foundation is proposing would also make it much easier to manage IT projects such as BYOD (bring your own device) deployments, share data, or collaborate with other organisations, Simmonds suggests.

The organisation has drawn up a detailed white paper, which includes the "Six Conundrums of Global Identity", which it says has stood in the way of creating a workable global identity system. But it envisages a move towards a world where individuals control their own ID and authentication Bring Your Own Identity bringing both better security, and privacy.

Certainly, it is an ambitious goal. And, as the Global Identity Foundation concedes, it has been tried before with only limited success.

But for anyone managing authentication or security in their business, it's an interesting pointer to how better identity management might develop.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro.

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