July 2008 Access Control & Identity Management

"All tickets please, alle kaartjies asseblief". That was a call I regularly heard in the late '80s as I travelled by train from Cape Town to Simonstown. Lately, when I use modern public transport such as the London Underground or Paris Metro, it is all automated, from ticket purchasing to access to the subsystem that leads to you boarding the train.

Likewise we now get e-tickets to fly on 1-time and many of the other low-cost internal flights. Reserving these tickets does not require any form of identity, and if you were so keen to blow a few hundred rand, be my guest and book a flight in a strange or unknown name.

Yes, on arrival at the departure point you have a process of personal identification prior to receiving your boarding pass. This is a manual process that currently has a small amount of automation in tying the ticket booking with the physical individual standing at the terminal.

Not exactly optimal and not something that will or can scale massively when we start looking at the number of individuals, groups, local nationals and foreign to deal with when it comes to sporting events or a large pop concert.

It will be possible through the Web though and new technologies to certify users prior to such events which can lift the demands on overworked registration staff at the point of access to an event.

One such example is IRIS (iris recognition immigration system), which has been implemented at Gatwick Airport where 31 million passengers pass through annually. It allows registered passengers to enter the UK quickly and securely and is a new step in exploiting biometric technology to strengthen Britain's border controls.

Therefore I see a future in South African sports, hospitality and entertainment where frequent consumers of such services will want to differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd. They will demand and receive faster access, better seating - possibly closer to the celebrities or action - and all of this will be granted as the event organisers will know a lot more about these individuals' personal likes and dislikes.

They will also be able to achieve better profiling for crowd control and will 'instinctively' know how to manage these groups.

One of the biggest activities that will be tied to these processes will be identity certification. This is the process of proving who you are to the authority that will be granting or issuing you your convenience activator. Once this relationship is established you will have authorised access to the environment and/or services that you have signed up for. A principle of federation within the certification process can see external agents possibly providing a service to multiple providers in a distributed fashion.

Such conveniences are great, but we need to ask ourselves what will we have to sacrifice to benefit from it? And will these sacrifices justify the convenience? Only time will tell.

South Africa has no long-term statistics regarding ID theft, nor do we have a legal requirement to breach disclosure notification. We do, however, hear rumours of irregularities in the Home Affairs offices and we have all heard the stories of co-workers and acquaintances that have lost notebooks and mobile phones, all of which contain personal information of that person and potentially also their clients.

Not much is happening to these data bits as our criminal mindsets still see the value in the stolen hardware, but that too will change shortly... and with a legal mandate soon on us to protect personal identifiable data and with a breach notification requirement looming, I see a lot of change on the horizon.

The warning therefore lies in what you as a consumer - who subscribes to these new service offerings, that promise to reduce waiting times, reduce queuing and improve usability etc - have to give away to become a consumer of the service, and whether you are comfortable with the level of trust that you are passing on to the service provider, including the conditions and terms of their custodial agreement and how you will be able to extract yourself from such a service.

Karel Rode
Karel Rode

For more information contact CA Africa, +27 (0)11 236 9152, karel.rode@ca.com, www.ca.com

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