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Unifying Security Policy Across the Web, Web Services, and Web 2.0

Eliminate security policy silos before they are created for eased administration and improved control

Let's look at a specific example of a Web 2.0 site that is also driving Website security and web services security together. In Figure 4, access to the website is controlled by a cookie-based WAM product. Users of the website, once authenticated by the WAM product, use a Web 2.0 application in their browser. The Web 2.0 application makes use of web services to fetch dynamic content (for example, to fetch an insurance quote in real-time). We see an XML Gateway with an identity-based web services security system being deployed to manage access to the web services. By connecting the XML Gateway to the policy server of the web services security system, a single security system can be used to govern access to the website and the back-end web services. In addition, the XML Gateway protects the enterprise from harmful XML. The XML Gateway, acting as the PEP, enforces access to the web services and ensures that only authenticated users are allowed.

Security administrators who are skilled with using a WAM product for controlling access to websites can now use it in its extended capacity to define policy for accessing the web services used to power Web 2.0 features. In this way, retraining is not required and greater leverage of existing infrastructure and security processes can be leveraged. When the centralized policy-based system is used for both Web Access Management and web services security, it effectively becomes a Centralized Web Security System covering both flavors of web application deployment.

Putting It All Together
We have seen that it is possible to have a unified security policy framework that secures:

  • Traditional website browser access
  • Application-to-application web services traffic using XML/SOAP.
  • New Web 2.0 sites in which code at the browser connects back to web services to fetch content dynamically.

This can be achieved by using an XML Gateway and container-based agents in conjunction with a centralized identity-centric web security system. The full solution architecture is shown in Figure 5.

In Figure 5, we see all three scenarios that we have examined in this article. Working from the top to the bottom, we see:

  1. Application-to-application XML traffic secured by the XML Gateway and a container-based agent acting in conjunction with the centralized web security policy server
  2. "Traditional" website access is enforced by an Agent at the web server also working in conjunction with the same policy server. If the Web application uses a web service at the back end, then the users context can be checked through the use of the policy server
  3. New "Web 2.0" clients, in which code at the browser can dynamically connect to web services, are also managed by this same PEP/PDP-based system.

Conclusion
The best solution for managing the security for all web resources (both websites and web services) involves the use of a centralized, identity-centric web security system along with an XML Gateway and a container-based policy enforcement point, thus continuing to expand upon and leverage the proven PEP/PDP architecture that has served us so well in WAM products over the past 10 years.

In this model the centralized web security system makes access decisions that apply to all web resources, whether browser-based or web service-based. The XML Gateway acts as an enforcement point and applies XML threat mitigation and XML traffic management (caching, routing, XML enrichment), paired with the agent-based enforcement points that extend the security coverage to the last-mile, to the service. In this way security administrators only have to manage one set of security policies and one set of infrastructure across both websites and web services for the entire enterprise. This sets up the security administrators for eased security management and better control, in effect eliminating security silos before they have even been built.

More Stories By Mark O'Neill

Mark O'Neill is VP Innovation at Axway - API and Identity. Previously he was CTO and co-founder at Vordel, which was acquired by Axway. A regular speaker at industry conferences and a contributor to SOA World Magazine and Cloud Computing Journal, Mark holds a degree in mathematics and psychology from Trinity College Dublin and graduate qualifications in neural network programming from Oxford University.

More Stories By Matthew Gardiner

Matthew Gardiner is a senior principal of Product Marketing at CA and is a recognized industry leader in the security management & IAM markets worldwide. He is published and interviewed regularly in leading industry media on a wide range of IAM and security-related topics and is a member of the Liberty Alliance’s board of directors. Matthew has a BSEE from the University of Pennsylvania and an SM in Management from MIT's Sloan School of Management.

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