|By Sathiya Rajendhran||
|January 15, 2012 11:00 AM EST||
Defining "Who sees what" and "who does what" are the two important aspects of access control in any software application.
"Security" is a much larger subject, but this article focuses on just the access control aspects of security in a software application.
The Older Paradigm: Roles and Page-Level Access Controls
When you build a custom application for a specific customer, the access control policies of the organization are often defined upfront as part of the requirements phase. Depending on the vertical, domain and the specific organizational structure of the business, first the roles are defined. And then each role is given access to a set of screens, forms, pages and reports. What role A sees might be different from what role B sees. What role A can do could be different from what role B is allowed to do. Of course, certain areas in the application can be accessed by multiple roles. While building software products (used by several customers), the roles are often generalized and predefined. The various access control policies of the product are often hard coded in to the roles. The customer will be able to assign one or more roles to their users.
The New Paradigm: Privilege-Based Access Controls
In the new paradigm, before doing any action (including showing something on the screen - which is the View action), you check / demand for the privilege to view that information or do a certain action. It could be standard actions such as view, edit and delete or special privileges such as "Access to History Data" or "Access to information or content created by people other than myself. In the new paradigm, a user / roles privileges are resolved during run time - not hard coded at design time. This allows the product developer to complete the development just by demanding the necessary privileges at each step, without having to worry about the users and roles in the system.
Mapping Privileges to Roles
By enumerating the various privileges (entity wise or form wise standard privileges as well as special privileges) in an administration screen, we can allow the end customer to map the privileges to any specific role, during run time. This takes care of dynamic changes in organizational policy. This also allows the end customer to create completely new roles (not originally envisaged by the product designer) dynamically during actual usage and map a set of privileges to these new roles using an admin screen.
For example in a HR product, the product might have default roles such as "Employee" and "Manager" whereas a customer may create a new role called "Team Leader" or "Mentor."
Subsequently, users can be assigned with one or more roles (including new custom roles). So when a user is using the system, the application can resolve who the user is, what his or her role is, what the privileges of the role are - all during run time. So before a particular action, the application can simply check whether the required privilege is available for the user and proceed. While this may seem little challenging from the software design/development front, it will bring in lot of flexibility for the customers.
Many a time, mapping privileges to roles and assigning roles to users is also not adequate. Let's illustrate this with an example:
[email protected] has logged in to a performance management product. She has been assigned the role of a "Manager" and a set of Privileges have been assigned to this role. For example she can add certain new skills in the skills master, which another user with an "Employee" role cannot do.
But the real challenge however is in defining what she can and cannot see and what she can and cannot do with respect to the performance appraisal ratings of various employees.
Out of the 300 people in the organization, userX, is a "Primary Manager" for 4 employees, "Co-Manager for 5 employees", "Mentor" for 5 employees, "Department Head for 40 employees", and "Peer" for 15 employees. She is not related to the rest of the employees in the organization (in the context of performance management).
The privileges of what each of these "Relationships" can and cannot do is different. For example, a Mentor can view performance ratings but cannot edit them. A Primary Manager can edit ratings, but cannot approve them. And a Department head can approve/disapprove ratings, but cannot edit them.
How can we allow userX to login in once, view all the employees related to her in a single grid, but restrict her access depending on the relationship between her and the employee on whom she is performing the action?
- Step 1: Define relationships in a master: This could be added / edited by the end customer.
- Step 2: Map each privilege to a set of relationships who are to be given this privilege.
- Step 3: Resolve the relationship between the user and the employee during run time and accordingly deduce whether the user has or does not have the privilege to do an action.
Static Data Scope
Apart from defining what a role can or cannot do / see, we often also want to restrict the boundaries of the data that the user has access to. For example, "Can edit employee profile information - but - only for people in his division / department", "Can see salary details - but only for employees reporting to her or to her down the line reports". Another example is to say that the Sales manager can access leads / customers only from his territory.
These datascopes should not be hard coded in the product, but should be configurable by an end customer. For each role and privilege mapping, the data scope can also be mapped.
The meanings of these datascopes are defined as "Meta data" which are nothing but Filter conditions. These filter conditions should be dynamically applied on the data set being accessed during run time, depending on the role-privilege-data scope resolved for the user context.
Dynamic Data Scope
This is an extended form of data scope, where the variable being defined for the data scope is itself defined dynamically.
For example, an "HR Administrator" role assigned to "User A" should administer for employees in "Location, P, Q and R" and "HR Administrator" role assigned to "User B" should administer for employees in "Location S, T and V" - where the location itself is user defined by the end customer in a Location Master.
Or Finance Manager should be able see the books of Divisions "A, B, C and D" where the Divisions itself is user defined by the end customer in a Division master.
Multi-Tenant Access Control
When the roles, relationships, privileges, static and dynamic data scopes are user definable by the end customer, and when the sample application serves multiple customers / tenants (from a single instance of the application), then we need to store all these access control configurations - tenant wise. So during run time, we should not only resolve the data scopes-privileges-roles-users, but also apply the tenant context and look up the appropriate tenant specific access control settings, before deciding to allow or disallow a particular action in the application.
Privilege mapping should be possible at the field Level, entity Level, form Level and page Level, so that the end customer / tenant has absolute control and flexibility in defining and modifying "Who sees what" and "Who can do what" in the system.
Tying in Subscription/ License Control with Access Control
Different tenants/ customers/ user groups should be given access or denied access to different modules and features in the product. This depends on the package that they have bought (in a SaaS product) or based on the Organizational Policy (in a Private/ Internal SaaS product).
These modules and features have to be first defined as Meta data and the corresponding page level access controls have to be mapped to them. This will allow the product to hide or show certain menu items and links to users depending on the tenant context and the packages enabled for that tenant/ user group.
Usage-Based Quota and Access Control
Many a times tenants are allowed to use the product for a specific no. of users or for a specified quota of usage (For example can do XXX no. of market surveys). These transactions and events have to be metered in the product, and once the defined quota is exceeded, the access control system should deny access to any user belonging to that tenant / user group.
The Access Control Paradigm of a Multi-tenant Application/ SaaS Product, should enlarge its frame of reference to include extensive customizability and configurability to suit different customers and organizations while still maintaining a single instance and code base.
The engineering stack of a Multi - tenant SaaS product, should have a robust and flexible Access Control layer, so that all the dynamic and run time capabilities are handled at the framework level. The developer then can focus on building the business functions, follow the guidelines provided by the underlying framework and demand a privilege before doing any significant action.
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, will explore the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Oct. 9, 2015 05:30 PM EDT
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi's VP Business Development and Engineering, will explore the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context w...
Oct. 9, 2015 05:15 PM EDT Reads: 114
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new data-driven world, marketplaces reign supreme while interoperability, APIs and applications deliver un...
Oct. 9, 2015 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 306
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Oct. 9, 2015 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 241
Electric power utilities face relentless pressure on their financial performance, and reducing distribution grid losses is one of the last untapped opportunities to meet their business goals. Combining IoT-enabled sensors and cloud-based data analytics, utilities now are able to find, quantify and reduce losses faster – and with a smaller IT footprint. Solutions exist using Internet-enabled sensors deployed temporarily at strategic locations within the distribution grid to measure actual line loads.
Oct. 9, 2015 03:49 PM EDT
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Oct. 9, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 509
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Oct. 9, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 144
The IoT market is on track to hit $7.1 trillion in 2020. The reality is that only a handful of companies are ready for this massive demand. There are a lot of barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can we deal with these issues and challenges? The paradigm has changed. Old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways will certainly lead you to the dead end. What is mandatory is an overarching and adaptive approach to effectively handle the rapid changes and exponential growth.
Oct. 9, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 210
Today’s connected world is moving from devices towards things, what this means is that by using increasingly low cost sensors embedded in devices we can create many new use cases. These span across use cases in cities, vehicles, home, offices, factories, retail environments, worksites, health, logistics, and health. These use cases rely on ubiquitous connectivity and generate massive amounts of data at scale. These technologies enable new business opportunities, ways to optimize and automate, along with new ways to engage with users.
Oct. 9, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 190
The IoT is upon us, but today’s databases, built on 30-year-old math, require multiple platforms to create a single solution. Data demands of the IoT require Big Data systems that can handle ingest, transactions and analytics concurrently adapting to varied situations as they occur, with speed at scale. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, chief strategy officer at Deep Information Sciences, will look differently at IoT data so enterprises can fully leverage their IoT potential. He’ll share tips on how to speed up business initiatives, harness Big Data and remain one step ahead by apply...
Oct. 9, 2015 01:45 PM EDT Reads: 565
There will be 20 billion IoT devices connected to the Internet soon. What if we could control these devices with our voice, mind, or gestures? What if we could teach these devices how to talk to each other? What if these devices could learn how to interact with us (and each other) to make our lives better? What if Jarvis was real? How can I gain these super powers? In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, will show you!
Oct. 9, 2015 01:15 PM EDT
As a company adopts a DevOps approach to software development, what are key things that both the Dev and Ops side of the business must keep in mind to ensure effective continuous delivery? In his session at DevOps Summit, Mark Hydar, Head of DevOps, Ericsson TV Platforms, will share best practices and provide helpful tips for Ops teams to adopt an open line of communication with the development side of the house to ensure success between the two sides.
Oct. 9, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 611
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
Oct. 9, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 801
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
Oct. 9, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 741
SYS-CON Events announced today that Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, will keynote at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Oct. 9, 2015 11:15 AM EDT
Developing software for the Internet of Things (IoT) comes with its own set of challenges. Security, privacy, and unified standards are a few key issues. In addition, each IoT product is comprised of at least three separate application components: the software embedded in the device, the backend big-data service, and the mobile application for the end user's controls. Each component is developed by a different team, using different technologies and practices, and deployed to a different stack/target - this makes the integration of these separate pipelines and the coordination of software upd...
Oct. 9, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 299
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
Oct. 9, 2015 08:30 AM EDT Reads: 314
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Oct. 9, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 5,887
WebRTC converts the entire network into a ubiquitous communications cloud thereby connecting anytime, anywhere through any point. In his session at WebRTC Summit,, Mark Castleman, EIR at Bell Labs and Head of Future X Labs, will discuss how the transformational nature of communications is achieved through the democratizing force of WebRTC. WebRTC is doing for voice what HTML did for web content.
Oct. 9, 2015 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,416
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.
Oct. 9, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 575