CIO Review >> Magazine >> September - 2013 issue

The Evolution Of Identity


Friday, September 6, 2013

Jay Gardner Based in Houston and founded in 1995, NetIQ provides solutions for managing Security & Compliance, Identity & Access, and Performance & Availability to help organizations tackle information protection challenges such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, SOX and NERC CIP and manage the complexity of dynamic, highly-distributed application environments.

By the end of this decade, it is estimated that somewhere between 25 billion and one trillion devices will be connected to the Internet – creating what industry analysts refers to as the "Internet of Things" and Cisco calls "The Internet of Everything".

Whatever we call it, the result will be a change in the way we think about information technology, the scope of the Internet and how businesses operate. With all of the "things" that need to communicate, whether it is the computer in your car, your TV, or even the clothes you wear – there will be a need to not just consider and manage through the Big Data and analytics opportunities, but equally important, the security and privacy implications. The "Internet of Things" represents the most significant opportunity in our lifetime. At the same time, it makes the current security challenges that organizations struggle with seemingly trivial.

Critical to taking advantage of this onslaught of connectivity is the concept of identity, which is evolving in parallel to these massive market shifts.

The Identity of Everything

As massive amounts of data is collected from almost every device you touch, and then stored for analysis and use, the question of who has access to that information and for what purpose looms large. Consider what attackers could do when almost every device in your home has some capacity to capture and transmit information.

If approached correctly, businesses will be able to deepen their interaction with customers to a level undreamed of now – personalized services delivered exactly when, where and how they are wanted. There will be devices that are smarter and more able to meet the demands of a public and business community that are addicted to the instant responses.

Let us also consider where security and privacy stand today in light of social media over-sharing, mobile applications, and cloud collaboration.

Security and privacy of personal data is already under siege. Yet failure to address these concerns early, in the very design of online devices and the way we interact with them will ultimately impede the capability of any business, thereby inhibiting what could be significant market opportunity.

But to do so, businesses must also rethink the way they deal with the very concept of identity – because everything – from your employees and customers to the things they buy and use, will have an identity. To make the "Internet of Everything" manageable, there must be an equivalent "Identity of Everything". This Identity of Everything will create the unique set of attributes that define who or what every connected item or person is, what permissions those objects and people have, what they do with them, who granted them, and most importantly, how you should interact with them. These identities will also be essential to fulfill the regulatory audit needs of industries and governments, which can be expected to extend compliance reporting significantly as the potential security impact to consumers also grows.

We must embrace the concept of everything having an identity. While businesses may now interact directly with customers, increasingly they will be interacting with many proxies – whether that is a phone, a car, or some other aspect of their life that exists on line. Understanding who the customer is beyond the device will be essential to ensuring that we have the capability to meet their needs and anticipate those needs before they know it themselves.

The Identity of Everything will go far beyond anything we have experienced today. We are used to companies like Amazon tracking our buying habits and offering similar goods that we might want, but imagine extending this capability to every aspect of our lives. Everything we touch will have its own identity, and that identity will be affected and extend, by our own personal identity. The businesses that can operate in this world will thrive. Those that cannot will struggle to retain the attention of customers.