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Digital Identity by Phillip J. Windley

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Authentication System Properties

There are several important characteristics that authentication systems should have. These properties can be used to create an evaluation process for authentication systems in your organization. The most effective method is to prioritize these properties based on design criteria for the overall system and then evaluate different designs against the prioritized list. The following sections describe these characteristics.

Practicality

Practicality is probably the most important feature that any authentication system can have. From the user's standpoint, the authentication system should be easy to use and non-intrusive. No one likes an authentication system that asserts itself too frequently or asks for authentication when none is needed. Users also dislike multiple authentication systems for multiple resources when the user sees those resources as related. For example, from the users' standpoint, email lives on the desktop computer, and once they've signed on to their computers, they don't want to reauthenticate to read their email.

From the enterprise's viewpoint, the authentication system should scale well, provide the appropriate level of protection, and be cost effective. Enterprises want easy-to-use systems as well, due to high support costs. Enterprises need to manage authentication by large, diverse groups. For example, customers, employees, and the employees of partners and suppliers all need access to resources that the enterprise controls. Each ...

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