Authentication Ideas

6 min read Security, and particularly around authentication, authorization, and auditing, is my favorite part of software development. It’s the stuff that not just lets us be safe, but rather, the reason I like it so much is that it’s by far the broadest part of software development. It requires us to understand the full breadth of the field, from hardware security components like TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chips to IETF standards-based protocols that not only make things safer but open the door to creating simpler, better, and more integrated systems. Historically it may not have always been the case, and security was at odds with other fields like performance and usability. Those problems have long been addressed now, once we realized that thinking of systems as having behavior emergent from the interaction of many systems and focusing on the end problem we’re trying to solve, instead of trying to fit the problem into an isolated individual system.

This new way of thinking gave way to new fields such as Systems Engineering, where the focus moves to focus on discovering the real problems that need to be resolved and identifying the most probable and highest impact failures that can occur. The domain of security, and organizations like (ISC)², OWASP and NIST have recognized and pushed the application of this understanding very well over the years, and standards have changed and become better.

One concrete example of this I think is NIST’s update to NIST 800-171 to remove periodic password change requirements, and drop the password complexity requirements in favor of screening new passwords against a list of commonly used or compromised passwords.