Identity Predictions for 2006 and beyond
The beginning of a new year is usually a time for planning and predictions. I allowed myself a little fun to make these predictions (and hopes) about the "identity" techologies.
1: "Identity" becomes mega-buzzword Every other company will be "identity-focused". More and more products will be "identity-enabled". You will hear more about "identity" in mainstream media. And most of the people (include those in "identity-focused" companies working on "identity-enabled" products) will know absolutely nothing about what this "identity" is all about. The "identity industry" will be hyped. The stock prices will rise too high to be realistic. Many startups and aquisitions. Some really valuable, most of them average, and some just empty shells with good marketing. As usual. 2: Many "identity" mistakes happen, but it will take a while for them to be seen. It will become apparent, that "user-centric" identity is not that easy. Not many of the "identity folk" will ever admit it, but they will know, sooner or later. The naive global (URL-based) "identity" systems will proliferate for a while, but (hopefuly) not for long. Most of the current "user-centric identity" systems will need to be redesigned, limited to specific purpose or will just die. Maybe not in 2006, but they may eventually face the fate of X.509. We need to see at least one more generation of "identity" system to get something really usable. Similar situation will be seen in the real world. Many "national ID" and "national database" system will be proposed only to learn that the technology or the approach is not yet good enough. If you ask me who will "win" on the Internet, I think that it would be something based on WS-Trust. Or maybe something similar to WS-Trust that can be used both over SOAP and REST. But that will not be apparent in 2006. And I think (a hope again) that the "claims" will be SAML-based. 3: More client-side identity implementations will be seen. As of today, we have almost exclusively seen only pure-web server-side "identity" solutions. As the technology starts to mature, we may see more of a client-side support for "identity". Microsoft "identity selector" (InfoCards), and Liberty-Enabled Client Profile being the first signs, but I believe there will be more activity. Maybe Mozilla community will be drawn to "identity". Or maybe we will see first "identity selector" for Linux? 4: Enterprise Identity Management will spread through Europe. This one is more a hope than a prediction. European companies are quite late adopters of Enterprise Identity Management technologies. I think that it will change, but the change will be quite slow (especially here in Central/Eastern Europe). There will be a bit more "identity" projects in 2006. But the hype wave will come with full strength in the following years, powered by regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley or EU auditing rules. 5: Spam, phishing and pharming will get even wilder. This is a safe bet. Nothing can be done to help in this area given current technology and only one year of progress. Spam will continue unhindered, heuristic methods being the most effective. The community will start to design the replacement for SMTP, that will be based on identity and social networking. It will not be seen as SMTP replacement at first, but will evolve to that. The phraud will move on beyond its current primitive techniques. Phrauders will find advanced methods, just like putting pharming functionality into viruses and worms. Strong auth will help a bit, but will not stop the most sophisticated attacks. 6: Strong authentication will get integrated with "identity". Authentication and "identity" may not be the same, but they cannot be seen as separate. Authentication companies will look at "identity" technologies as a way to sell more of their products. And the authentication products will comoditize. Maybe it will not happen in 2006, but we will eventually buy SecurID tokens in hypermarkets. 7: We will see attacks targeting legacy "trust" mechanisms. Ever seen the list of "trusted" certificate authorities in your browser? Ever wondered how difficult is to get a false certificate from any of these authorities? Well, I expect that someone will try and succeeds. There was not much motivation yet, as it was easier to steal a password. But once strong auth will be here, man-in-middle attacks will be popular again. And given the cumbersome and not-much-functional revocation mechanisms of X.509 implementations, these attacks may get pretty effective. The year 2006 will be long over when people finally realize that the authentication must be mutual, not only one-way and that the "strong auth" is not a panacea.