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Is identity management different on a mobile platform?

Jun 28, 20043 mins
Access ControlCellular NetworksEnterprise Applications

* Calling for your views of identity management in a wireless world

In the last couple of issues, we’ve been examining the questions surrounding mobile platforms and identity management: Is identity management different on a mobile platform, does a mobile platform demand different identity management services, or is a mobile platform simply another platform?

One company at least, Fischer International, believes that mobile platforms are special platforms that deserve different treatment from an identity management perspective. Fischer claims to have, for example, the first mobile solution for users to reset and synchronize their passwords using a PDA. Fischer’s “I Fly” allows PDA users to securely reset any and all network passwords, as well as provides self-service maintenance of directory accounts while providing access to e-mail and calendars.

What other projects are there that are specific to, or unique on, a mobile platform?

The producers of a major mobile and wireless trade show contacted me a few weeks ago to ask the question I’ve been asking you: Is identity management on the mobile and/or wireless platform somehow different from the wired or tethered platform?

When I privately asked a group of vendors and writers about this, there was surprising unanimity of agreement (usually, a group like that couldn’t agree on what day of the week it was). It is best summed up in the words of NetPro CTO Gil Kirkpatrick: “Identity management for mobile platforms has the same underlying conceptual framework that is part of [identity management] as we generally know it, but the mobile platform has characteristics that require special consideration in [identity management].” In other words, identity management is identity management, but the platform does make a difference.

Kirkpatrick gave examples:

A) Mobile devices are easily passed between people, more so than the typical desktop or laptop. So we have a different ID-to-device ratio to deal with.

B) The different users of a mobile device are quite possibly not members of the same enterprise, which means their respective identities fall into separate domains, which would seem to require federation.

C) Roaming on the net requires changing connectivity providers seamlessly, which again speaks to the federation requirement.

D) Small mobile devices are easier to lose or steal, so “deprovisioning” across identity domains is crucial.

E) Authentication-by-password doesn’t fly in the mobile world, so some other form of authentication is necessary, e.g. fingerprint scan.

The trade show (coming up this fall) wants to present identity management to its mobile and wireless attendees. If you have a story to tell, either as a vendor with products to offer in the mobile space or as a user who has overcome one or more of the obstacles that Kirkpatrick mentioned – and you’re willing to share that story – drop me a note ( with the details. You just might be “telling the world” (or at least the part that will be at this show) about your accomplishments.