Authentication Protocols

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Full Title or Meme

A collection of Authentication protocols are compared and contrasted.

Context

Since Kerberos was released at MIT in 1999 as a means to allow Single Sign On by students and staff to the variety of systems available at the university, the combination of one user sign on to a variety of different services has been promoted as necessary in the variety of network services now available to users. There are two distinct cases and a wide range of intermediate cases that are addressed by authentication protocols:

Captive users and services

At MIT and at most corporations there is a pre-existing legal agreement that is signed by all users that applies to all services.

In such a closed system in makes sense to allow Single Log Out so that a user can close their connection and go home for the day.

Federated or Open systems of users and services

In such an open system it is not often helpful for a user to be signed out of all web sites when they chose to sign out of (say) the purchase of concert tickets.

Problems

  • Users do not want to be forced to create a distinct sign-on user name and password (their credentials) at every site they visit.
  • It is proven to be insecure for users to be required to have distinct sign-on credentials as they will generally reuse their credentials at every site possible.
  • Developers select a protocol based on the tools available for implementing the protocols and only later start adding requirements like Single Log Out. As are result they wind up using a protocol that is not designed for the system that they are implementing.

Solutions

Kerberos

SAML

OpenID Connect

References