Tag Archives: mobility

Upcoming Talks At MobileWeek 2014 In NYC

I’ll be attending MobileWeek 2014 in New York City next Monday, April 13. I’m at the conference all day, so drop by and say hello. Part way through the day I’ll  deliver a 2-minute lightning talk on mobile authentication followed by a panel on enterprise mobile security and scalability.

The lightning talk is at 12:25 pm:

How To Make Mobile Authentication Dead Easy

Are your developers struggling to integrate mobile apps and enterprise data? They shouldn’t be! In just 2 minutes, learn the easiest way to get easy end-to-end security between your mobile apps and the enterprise—all without using a VPN.

It must be easy if I can cover it in only 2 minutes.

The panel starts at 1:10 (which is an odd time to start, so keep an eye on the clock). It includes participants from Hightail, and will be moderated by Geoff Domoracki, who is one of the conference founders:

The Mobile Enterprise: Productivity, Security and Scalability

We hear terms like “mobile enterprise” or “mobile workforce” – but how far are we to creating an enterprise work environment that enables real-time communication beyond geographic boundaries – freeing the employee to work from his phone anywhere in the world? This panel explores the opportunities and challenges around the emergence of a “mobile enterprise” where sitting at a desk in the office is becoming more and more out-dated. How do you share documents – secure data – prove identity – and geo-collaborate in the new mobile enterprise?

Overall it looks to be a good day. New York is a hot bed of mobile development, and I’m looking forward to meeting lots of interesting people.

See you at MobileWeek.

Do You Agree To The Terms and Conditions? Mobile Devices And The Tipping Point of Informed Consent.

handshakeSometimes I wonder if anyone, in the entire history of computing, has every bothered to read and consider the contents of a typical End User License Agreement (EULA). Some Product Manager, I suppose (though truthfully, I’m not even sure of this one).

The EULA, however, is important. It’s the foundation of an important consent ceremony that ends with only one effective choice: pressing OK. This much-maligned step in every software installation is the only real binding between an end user and a provider of software. Out of this agreement emerges a contract between these two parties, and it is this contact that serves as a legal framework for interpretation should any issues arise in the relationship.

Therein lies the rub, as the emphasis in a EULA—as in so much of contract law—is on legal formalism at the expense of end user understanding. These priorities are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but as any lawyer will tell you, it’s a lot more work to make them co-exist on more of less equal footing.

Mobile devices, however, may provide the forcing function that brings change into this otherwise moribund corner of the software industry. Mobility is hot right now, and its demanding that we rethink process and technology all over business. These new demands are going to extend to the traditional EULA, and the result could be good for everyone.

Case in point: the New York Times reported recently on a study conducted by the FTC examining privacy in mobile apps for children. The researchers found that parents were not being adequately informed about what private information was being collected and the extent to which it could be shared. Furthermore, many mobile app developers are channeling data into just a few commercial analytics vendors. While this may not sound like too big a deal, it turns out that in some cases these data are tagged with unique device identifiers. This means that providers can potentially track behavior across multiple apps, giving them unprecedented visibility into the online habits of our children.

Kid and privacy are a lightening rod for controversy, but the study really speaks to a much greater problem in the mobile app industry. Just the previous week, the State of California launched a suit against Delta Airlines alleging the company failed to include a privacy policy in its mobile app, placing it in violation of that state’s 2004 privacy law.

You could argue that there is nothing new about this problem. Desktop applications have the same capacity for collecting information and so pose similar threats to our privacy. The difference is mostly the devil we know. After years of reading about the appalling threats to our privacy on the Internet, we have come to expect these shenanigans and approach the conventional web guarded and wary. Or we don’t care (see Facebook).

But the phone, well the phone is just… different.  A desktop—or even our mobile laptop—just isn’t as ubiquitous a part of our lives as our phone. The phone goes with us everywhere, which makes it both a triumph of technology and a tremendous potential threat to our privacy.

The problem with the phone is that it is the consumer device that isn’t. Apple crossed a chasm with the iPhone, taking the mobile device from constrained (like a blender) to extensible (like a Lego set) without breaking the consumer-orientation of the device. This was a real tour de force—but one with repercussions both good and bad.

The good stuff we live every day—we get to carefully curate our apps to make the phone our own. I can’t imagine traveling without my phone in my pocket. The bad part is we haven’t necessarily recognized the privacy implications of our own actions. Nobody expects to be betrayed by their constant companion, but it is this constant companion that poses the greatest threat to our security.

The good news is that the very characteristics that make mobile so popular also promise to bring much needed transparency to the user/app/provider relationship. Consumer-orientation plus small form factor equal a revolution in privacy and security.

Mobile devices tap into a market so vast it dwarfs the one addressed by the humble PC. And this is the group for which consumer protection laws were designed. And as we’ve seen in the Delta Airlines case above, the state’s have a lever, and apparently they aren’t afraid to use it.

But legislation is only part of the answer to reconcile the dueling priorities of privacy and consent. The other element working in favour of change is size, and small is definitely better here. The multi-page contract just isn’t going to play well on the 4″ screen. What consumer’s need is a message that is simple, clear, and understandable. Fortunately, we can look to the web for inspiration on how to do this right.

One of the reasons I get excited about the rise of OAuth is because it represents much more than yet another security token (God knows we have enough of those already). OAuth is really about granting consent. It doesn’t try to say anything about the nature of that consent; but it does put in the framework to make consent practical.

Coincident with the rise of OAuth on the Web is a movement to make the terms of consent more transparent. This needs to continue as the process moves to the restricted form factor of the mobile phone. I have no doubt that left to their own devices, most developers would take the easy route out and reduce mobile consent to a hyperlink pointing to pages of boilerplate legalese and an OK button. But add in some regulatory expectations of reasonable disclosure, and I can see a better future of clear and simple agreements that flourish first on mobile devices, but extend to all software.

Here at Layer 7 we are deeply interested in technologies like OAuth, and the role these play in a changing computer landscape. We are also spending lots of time working on mobile, because more than anything mobile solutions are driving uptake around APIs. When we built our mobile application gateway, we made sure this solution made OAuth simple to deploy, and simple to customize. This way, important steps like consent ceremonies can be made clear, unambiguous, and most important, compliant with the law.

(ISC)2 Webinar – Identity is the New Perimeter: Identity and BYOD

Join me and Tyson Whitten from CA Technologies as we deliver a webinar about security in the BYOD world. The title of our talk is Identity and BYOD, and we are honored to be presenting as part of the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)² security series.

This webinar will take place on Oct 25, 2012 at 1pm ET/10am PT. We will delve deeply into the issues created by the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement in the enterprise, and discuss what you can do to manage the associated risk.

You can sign up on the (ISC)² website.

Platform Comes To Washington

Everyone wants his or her government to be better. We want more services, better services, and we want it delivered cheaper. Politicians come and go, policies change, new budgets are tabled, but in the end we are left with a haunting and largely unanswerable question: are things better or worse than they were before?

One thing that is encouraging and has the potential to trigger disruptive change to the delivery of government services in the US is the recent publication Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People. The word to note here is platform; it seems that government has taken a page from Facebook, Twitter, and the others and embraced the idea that efficient information delivery is not about a carefully rendered Web page, but instead is really a logical consequence of developing an open platform.

I confess to some dread on my first encounter with this report. These publications are usually a disheartening product of weaselly management consultant speak refined through the cloudy lens of a professional bureaucrat (“we will be more agile”). But in this instance, the reverse was true: this report is accessible and surprisingly insightful. The authors understand that mobility+cloud+Web API+decentralized identity is an equation of highly interrelated parts that in summation is the catalyst for the new Internet renaissance. The work is not without its platitudes, but even these it bolsters with a pragmatic road map identifying actions, parties’ responsible, and (gasp) even deadlines. It’s actually better than most business plans I’ve read.

Consider this paragraph clarifying just what the report means when it calls for an information-centric approach to architecture:

An information-centric approach decouples information from its presentation. It means beginning with the data or content, describing that information clearly, and then exposing it to other computers in a machine-readable format—commonly known as providing web APIs. In describing the information, we need to ensure it has sound taxonomy (making it searchable) and adequate metadata (making it authoritative). Once the structure of the information is sound, various mechanisms can be built to present it to customers (e g websites, mobile applications, and internal tools) or raw data can be released directly to developers and entrepreneurs outside the organization. This approach to opening data and content means organizations can consume the same web APIs to conduct their day-to-day business and operations as they do to provide services to their customers.

See what I mean? It’s well done.

The overall goal is to outline an information delivery strategy that is fundamentally device agnostic. Its authors fully recognize the growing importance of mobility, and concede that mobility means much more than the mobile platforms—iOS and Android, among others—that have commandeered the word today. Tomorrow’s mobility will describe a significant shift in the interaction pattern between producers and consumers of information. Mobility is not a technological instance in time (and in particular, today).

But what really distinguishes this report from being just a well-researched paper echoing the zeitgeist of computing’s cool kids, is how prescriptive it is in declaring how government will achieve these goals. The demand that agencies adopt Web APIs is a move that echos Jeff Bezos’ directives a decade ago within eBay (as relayed in Steve Yegge’s now infamous rant):

1) All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.

It was visionary advice then and it is even more valid now. It recognizes that the commercial successes attributed to the Web API approach suggest that just maybe we have finally hit upon a truth in how system integration should occur.

Of course, memos are easy to ignore—unless they demand concrete actions within a limited time. Here, the time frames are aggressive (and that’s a good thing). Within 6 months, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must “Issue government-wide open data, content, and web API policy and identify standards and best practices for improved interoperability.” Within 12 months, each government agency must “Ensure all new IT systems follow the open data, content, and web API policy and operationalize agency gov/developer pages” as well as “optimize at least two existing priority customer-facing services for mobile use and publish a plan for improving additional existing services.”

If the recent allegations regarding the origins of the Stuxnet worm are accurate, then the President clearly understands the strategic potential of the modern Internet. I would say this report is a sign his administration also clearly understands the transformational potential of APIs and mobility, when applied to government.