Flexibility in identifying and authenticating users – Part One

Rights management is used to manage usage rights to protect sensitive documents, ensuring that only authorized users have access to protected information. At its core, this is dynamic protection based upon user identities. To facilitate this, the system must know which individual users should have access to secured content.

Flexibility in identifying and authenticating users ensures that protection can be transparently integrated into preexisting infrastructure, and is central to effective deployment. The benefits should be clear: fast deployment, easy administration, and quick to achieve a return on investment.

LiveCycle Rights Management ES provides four fundamental types of authentication to the end-user: anonymous authentication, username/password authentication, Kerberos SSO authentication, and Smartcard/Certificate authentication. These enable out-of-the-box deployment into a variety of authentication infrastructure, along with allowing for substantial mechanisms for customization and integration.

In today’s topic, let me explain some of the possibilities and benefits associated with the first three authentication type:

Anonymous authentication

This type of authentication completely skips identifying the end-user! By granting “guest-level” access to content, end-users need not authenticate prior to being authorized to open content. This allows several workflows:

  1. Authors can distribute content and still control them through the “yank and replace” revocation mechanism. For example, an author can distribute a price sheet or a data capture form, and make sure that only the latest version of content can be viewed.
  2. Even though individual end-user identity is unknown, authorization can be controlled based upon IP address or the number of times content has been viewed. Further, detailed (though anonymous) audit records can keep track of how frequently documents are opened.

Username/password authentication

This is typically the most familiar authentication dialog within LiveCycle Rights Management ES:


This dialog is the gateway to the powerful “username/password” authentication; it provides out-of-the-box functionality to authenticate users against a variety of directory systems, as well as create a custom integration with other credential providers.

For example, you can authenticate users against supported LDAP directories (e.g., Microsoft Active Directory, Sun Directory Server, IBM Domino LDAP, Novell eDirectory, etc.) that you already have deployed. But there’s no need to limit yourself to LDAP users. We provide two out-of-the-box mechanisms for managing user accounts for customers without existing directory infrastructure: “invited users” and “local users”. Think of these accounts as being stored “locally” within our own built-in directory. Administrators can manage these accounts using our built-in APIs and GUI, and the facility exists for end-users to quickly and easily provision their own accounts.

In all these cases, the end user simply enters his username and password upon opening a document and the server automatically queries the relevant system to verify credentials and further authorize the user. If the administrator chooses to allow it, the end user can also instruct the client to remember his credentials, which will securely cache credentials and not bother him to authenticate for subsequent documents. For many customers, this can enable an inexpensive form of “Single Sign-On” (SSO), since end users would see an authentication dialog at most once, and likely forget they are opening protected content.

This authentication type, however, is much more flexible than basic username/password integration with directory services. We can enable integration with any credential system that traffics in two user-inputted strings. This is because LiveCycle Rights Management ES can dynamically customize this authentication dialog, and because a customer can develop a custom authentication provider integration via the server-based “SPIs”.

For example, some of our financial industry customers have leveraged their existing account management infrastructure, allowing their customers to authenticate via their existing account number and PIN to their policy-protected banking statements. Others have used these SPIs to integrate with one-time password (OTP) systems to enable multi-factor authentication.

Kerberos SSO authentication

Those customers who want the ultimate “transparent integration” with existing authentication infrastructure can choose to enable Kerberos-based single sign-on (SSO). This is an outstanding option for those who feel that “clicks ‘R’ bad”, and never want to be impacted with an authentication dialog.

Because end users never see an authentication dialog when opening a protected document, and frequently forget are accessing protected content, they often think of this authentication type as “magic.”

Based upon technology built into Microsoft Windows clients and Microsoft Active Directory on the server, Kerberos SSO allows LiveCycle Rights Management ES clients to securely use the credentials entered the end-user used when logging into his machine to authenticate directly with the Rights Management server.

Next time: A deep dive on smartcard/certificate authentication and the benefits to customers.

Need more information on how your organization can effectively manage and protect your intellectual property? Further information can be obtained at http://www.adobe.com/go/rm or by contacting Adobe

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