5 Things You Should Know About OAuth

What is OAuth?

OAuth is an an emerging protocol for sharing information between applications without sharing passwords.  Chances are good that you’ve already used Oauth but may not have been aware of it.  (Palmolive – Madge, you’re soaking in it).   OAuth is favored by social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and the broad ecosystem of applications that enhance those experiences.  If you have ever allowed an application to access your Facebook data, OAuth is the protocol being leveraged behind the scenes to make that happen.

1. Should you even be concerned about OAuth?

The answer to this question is (drum roll please) it depends.  If your business wants to cash in on or interoperate with social media in a meaningful way, then you you should definitely read on.  If not, then thanks for reading this far, and take some time reading other articles on my site before departing.

2.  How is OAuth different from Basic authorization standards?  

In a word, passwords!  Basic authentication requires applications to store and transmit username and passwords to work.  For many use cases, this is just fine.  However, if your application interacts with other external web API’s then Basic Authentication is not advised for two reasons: 1. managing user name and passwords to access services is difficult and clumsy to manage and 2. the potential for security breaches.  On the other hand, OAuth only requires that a user merely grants access rights to your data without passing username and password information.  In this way, if you change your password, all your linked applications will continue to work.

3.  Is OAuth Safe?

It depends, OAuth can be just as safe as other authentication protocols, but you really need to know the spec, enforce and control access, and secure the communication channel.  The best and most secure method for utilizing OAuth is to use an API Server.

4. What makes OAuth so unique?

In nutshell, User Managed Access.  Basically, OAuth gives the application end-user the power to control whether to accept, or reject authorizations to share information or integrate to 3rd party systems, without passing user passwords.

5.  Where can you learn more about OAuth?

I suggest that you start at the source:  http://www.oauth.net   I have to add one caveat, with the case of this specification it’s important to note that newer or the latest spec doesn’t always mean better.  Since the spec is constantly evolving, new release could actually introduce unfavorable changes that you’ll need to stay on top of.  Another source is Vordel, we are helping many enterprise customers safely move to the API universe.


Permanent link to this article: https://demystifyit.com/5-things-you-should-know-about-oauth/

Can you trust you know who you are dealing with?


Like everything in life, knowing whom you are dealing with is essential.  I seriously doubt that I’m going out on a limb to say that no one likes dealing with a phony.  If you think about it, in the physical world, almost everything we do is based upon trust and relationships: friends, significant others and professional relationships.  Is your Doctor qualified?  Is your fiancée already married? Regardless of the relationship, it’s important for an individual to know whom they are dealing with.  The same is also true in business – does this company have the means to pay for the product we are shipping them?  Should we trust this importer?  Therefore, I believe that knowing the identity of whom you are interacting with in the digital world is just as important.  In fact, it may be even more important given the potential for rapid massive financial theft and sabotage.

To be clear, I’m defining a digital relationship as any electronic system that communicates information about you, your customers, your patients, your partners, including the ability to change, share or alter information on your behalf.  Nowadays, with the advent of social media these “digital relationships” are everywhere – Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter as well as other social applications.  The trend is to give these applications permission to share information amongst and between these new age applications, along with other more traditional applications such as e-mail accounts, contact lists, and more.  For example, grant Linked in access to your address book or e-mail account and they will search for new business contacts to link to.  The power of what I’ll refer to as “Cross Communication Applications” is unmistakable; they save time, and provide tremendous benefit to the end-user.

Even businesses are getting into the act, as they are now actively sharing enterprise information from cloud based applications such as Salesforce and Concur, with their on-premise back-office applications such as E-Business Suite, SAP, or other home-grown applications.  With all this sharing going on, it’s vitally important that everyone is certain of the identities exchanging information.  If a malevolent person or program were successful in impersonating your digital identity, the resulting damage from such a breach could be quite significant. Therefore, knowing that you are only sharing information with a trusted identity is critical.

Consumer-based cross communication likely poses less of a financial threat than do enterprise information or sharing – but ultimately, only you can be the judge of that.  Therefore, the more important the information to you, the more security measures you should take – defense in depth is truly your single best defense against malicious threats.

A Gateway is one of the most powerful tools available to stop would be posers from accessing your digital assets.  Since a Gateway reads and monitors all application traffic flowing into and out of Cross Communication Applications you can instruct the gateway to do a number of things, such as:

* Verifying that the incoming IP address matches the “white list” of trusted IP addresses
* Verifying that the IP traffic hasn’t been spoofed
* Insuring that incoming traffic does not contain Trojans or Known cyber attacks….and much more.

In summary, if securing your information matters, you should do a little research to determine whether or not a Gateway would be right for you.  Remember, we all really need to know who we are dealing with.

Permanent link to this article: https://demystifyit.com/can-you-trust-you-know-whom-you-are-dealing-with/

What is a Gateway, and what can it do for you?

Since I sell Gateways every day, I thought I would tackle this question. I’ll begin by stating that a Gateway is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and yet most powerful technology component available in a technologist’s arsenal. If you think of a Gateway only as an instrument to secure Web Services, a Gateway is considerably more versatile and is also extremely adept at handily solving a broad array of complex technical challenges. To use an analogy, don’t just think of a car, think Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.

To understand what makes a Gateway such a powerful tool and to shed some light as to just how it works, it’s first helpful to know where it is most often installed within your technical architecture.  A Gateway is typically installed at the edge of your network inside what techies call the DMZ, which is an acronym that stands for Demilitarized Zone.  Techies use that term because it’s the frontline defense for all Internet traffic flowing into and out of your enterprise. As such, the Gateway operates as a High Performance Input/Output device that can apply operations to traffic in near real-time passing into and out of your network.  One of the most important functions a Gateway is its ability to stop bad traffic (schema bombss, SQL injections, etc.) from ever making its way into your enterprise.

Since application traffic flows through the Gateway on it’s way to your enterprise systems, the Gateway gets first crack at doing something meaningful with this information.  You can define a whole series of operations or policies that the Gateway can apply to this traffic. How you define your policies and the conditional instructions you define can completely alter your perception of just what a Gateway is and does. To use an analogy, if you saw the car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flying, you would think it was only an airplane, but if you instead saw the automobile racing across the water, you would think boat, and if you only saw the car on the road you would think of just as an automobile.   Now, if you were to combine all three perspectives, you would likely scratch your head and say to yourself, that’s one hell of a machine, whatever it is.  Well, unlike the movies, a Gateway is the very real equivalent of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang automobile. Only, the Gateway can perform ten or more tasks extremely well instead of only three.

The operations a Gateway can perform are things such as:


  • Inspect
  • Verify
  • Transform
  • Redact
  • Enrich
  • Encrypt
  • Block
  • Route
  • Throttle
  • Analyze
  • Log
  • Report


Each operation, when performed stand alone or combined with other operations can quite literally change your perception of the technology. A Gateway can:

  • Prevent unauthorized application access into your network
  • Thwart Denial of Service Attacks
  • Integrate On-Premise with cloud based applications across your entire enterprise
  • Operate as a Cloud Service Broker
  • Serve as a unified policy enforcement point – enforce IdM entitlements
  • Provide federated access
  • Re-purpose web services by redacting responses
  • Provide real-time insight as to how all your composite applications are performing
  • Transform application data from one language to another, and back again (SOAP to REST) – Go Mobile Quickly, without added time or expense
  • Throttle certain network traffic to meet SLA requirements
  • Serve as a simple Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) or front-end an existing ESB to improve its performance by as much as 8X
  • Send alerts to management and much, more…

In short, a Gateway is a very powerful tool that can solve numerous complex technical challenges and should be a core component of your infrastructure.  And of coure, the most powerful, flexible, and easy to use Gateway on the market is hands down Vordel.

Permanent link to this article: https://demystifyit.com/what-is-a-gateway-and-what-can-it-do-for-you/

Taming the SharePoint Beast

SharePoint is one of the most pervasively used technologies to come along since Microsoft Office. Once installed, SharePoint has the tendency to spread like a weed, often popping up in uncontrolled ways throughout the enterprise. Users simply love the freedom and autonomy of the tool, which is why CIO’s and CSO’s simply pull their hair out over the difficulty of managing and securing information contained therein.

For the record, I’m a big fan of autonomy – but then again, who isn’t? The trouble or threat really starts when someone stores sensitive information within SharePoint – which let’s face it, is going to happen often. That’s where the fun and games stop, and the need for enterprise class security begins. After all, proprietary information such as R&D, Financial Information, Strategy Documents, Market Analysis, Engineering Blueprints, etc. needs to be safeguarded, and as such, should adhere to the same security controls applied to other corporate information systems. So, if your company standardized on Oracle Access Manager, CA Siteminder, RSA Access Manager or IBM Tivoli Access Manager, etc. then you will most definitely want to leverage those systems with SharePoint. The trouble is, Microsoft’s approach to IdM is akin to Ford’s approach to Model T colors (you can have any car color you want as long as it’s black) – you can use SharePoint with IdM as long as you use Microsoft’s Identity Management products. Given the limited capabilities of Microsoft’s Identity Management Offering, this is neither a practical nor viable solution. So what should you do?

Fortunately, there is a seamless and elegant way to quickly and easily leverage your existing IdM infrastructure with SharePoint. By introducing a Gateway into your infrastructure you can close the door to potential threats and leverage your existing infrastructure. But here’s some other really great news.  First, you don’t have to install software everywhere.  Second,  you will gain insights about SharePoint (uptime, latency, & performance) that you can’t possibly have today.  And third, SharePoint application performance will greatly improve.

So, if you’ve been struggling to solve this problem for a while, I bet everything I just stated will sound like magic.  But once you understand the mechanic’s of what the Gateway is actually doing – the behind the scenes Gateway operations that makes it all happen – it will make perfect sense to you. A word of caution though, not all Gateway’s are created equal, and a number of Gateway vendor’s engines simply aren’t equipped to tackle this problem as efficiently as that of Vordel. I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but to use an analogy, the difference between the level of effort required is likely to be the same as the difference between planting a flower and planting a 50 foot grown tree. Both CAN be done, but it definitely will take much longer and you’ll have to commit a lot more resources to plant the tree.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and look forward to your feedback.

Permanent link to this article: https://demystifyit.com/taming-the-sharepoint-beast/

Energize Web Services with Redaction Action

Web Services, those discreet re-usable pieces of code we find everywhere nowadays, are becoming even more ubiquitous within Information Technology Departments for a very good reason,  Because they work.  Also, in theory, they go a long way towards reducing application development costs. The challenge that Web Services has is that they aren’t very intelligent. Let me provide you with a quick example that will illustrate the problem.

Let’s say that you’re an information service provider and your customers access information through a Web Service that you’ve built. It’s a pretty straightforward process: build the web service, make it available, (validate identities and access – I won’t get into that right now) and let the good times roll. The challenge begins when you want to add intelligence to your Web service.  For example, if the customer is a Platinum Subscriber then make all of this information available. However, if they are buying a single report without an Annual Subscription, then you want to only make section 1 & 3 available. Without intelligence, you quickly realize that every possible permutation will lead to the need for a new/modified web service. The inevitable proliferation of web services will become a challenge to keep track of and a nightmare to manage the difficulty of applying code revisions or updates to each web service.

Wouldn’t it be more efficient if you could just build a single web service and simply apply rules that would remove or redact information that fell outside of the rules. Come to think of it, that almost sounds like the kind of capability you would find in some government conspiracy spy novel. Well, as is usually the case, the truth is stranger than fiction; if you place a Gateway in front of a Web Service you can do exactly that. A Gateway is really a high performance Input/Output device that gives you ability to apply rules to network traffic going into and out of the Gateway. Given its capabilities, you can apply everything from simple to sophisticated rules to redact information based upon whatever criteria you define. It’s a very simple and elegant way to solve a vexing problem, and a Gateway will energize your web services without a whole lot of effort.

Permanent link to this article: https://demystifyit.com/energize-web-services-with-redaction-action/

REST your SOAP, and don’t worry, be happy

Bridging the gap between old and new is a challenge we all have been grappling with forever.  It’s inevitable that the “IT” thing of today, will be replaced by a new innovation down the road.  The caveman started with the rock, which was later replaced by the club, which later gave way to the spear.  New advancements did not replace the previous technology entirely; rather it simply redefined more appropriate uses.  For example, stones are ideal to craft spear points, and clubs when laced with leather and curved stones proved invaluable for digging.  Thankfully, this innovation continues to propel society forwards, but it often leads to confusion for “traditionalists” who find themselves unwilling to adopt or change.  So, what does all this have to do with technology?  Plenty, read more to find out why.

The early days of computing consisted of centralized information on a mainframe that was accessed through dumb terminals.  The invention and widespread adoption of the PC gave rise to Client Server computing.  The Internet ushered in another era of computing, which ultimately led businesses to adopt Service Oriented architecture to enable discrete program artifacts to be developed once, and reused time and again within the enterprise.  Companies quickly realized that if they could get discrete propram artifacts called Web Services to communicate with a customers’ or partners’ Web Service, they could further streamline operations.  All that was a needed was a common way to define information, securely transport this information, and provide instructions for the receiver about what to do with that information.  Enter SOAP to the rescue; You know you’re soaking in it?  (I couldn’t resist)  No, not that kind of SOAP!  SOAP once stood for Simple Object Access Protocol, but now it’s no longer an acronym, it’s now just plain old SOAP, but the protocol is just what was needed to help solve the challenge.

SOAP consists of three parts, (1) The envelope – think of this as a message wrapper  (2)  Encoding Rules – contains application defined data-types, and (3) Procedure calls and responses.  SOAP messages are formatted in XML or Extensible Markup Language and typically rely upon HTTP or SMTP for message transmission. SOAP has been around since 1998, and as such, it’s a mature and battle tested protocol used for exchanging structured information though Web Services.  The trouble is, SOAP as a protocol is very verbose – meaning, the quantity of information sent and received utilizing SOAP is fairly extensive.  This limitation wasn’t so much of a problem within the enterprise, but once companies moved to a mobile platform where users are “in the wild” the challenges of spotty and limited bandwidth become the norm, SOAP just doesn’t deliver.  The solution: Representational State Transfer Protocol or REST protocol to the rescue.

Unlike SOAP, REST is an abstraction protocol that links an end-user or client to another resource that holds information; these “other” resources can be either dynamic or static.  This fact that the information conveyed is simply an abstraction makes REST very lightweight, which is ideal for mobile users.  However, the REST protocol lacks maturity, and totally misses the boat on security.  As a result, businesses that have built an extensive service layer built upon SOAP, now find themselves faced with some difficult decisions:

1.  Deliver services that they know will be slow based upon SOAP

2.  Migrate or re-write existing services to REST and worry about security.

3.  Ignore the fastest growing segment of computing – mobile users

You don’t have to be Einstein to realize that each of the three options is unworkable, but fortunately, there is a 4th option.  Enter the Vordel Gateway.  A Gateway is really a high performance Input/Output device that is most often used to monitor all communications traffic coming into and out of an enterprise.  The brilliant thing about the Vordel Gateway is that not only does it monitor traffic, but it can also invoke operations against that traffic in near real time.  And, one of those operations is, you guessed it: Transformation.  You can think of it as an interpreter, like in the UN when an ambassador listens to a foreigner speak by donning one of those silly headsets so that he/she can hear what’s being said.  Only, the Vordel Gateway is capable of transforming information to and from different protocols at breakneck speeds, and – this is the best part, the Vordel Gateway can also make-up for SOAP’s limitations by implementing it’s own security policies (No headset required:).  Therefore, by simply introducing Vordel Gateway – Voila, everyone is happy.  You don’t have to re-write code that took months or years to develop, your information is safeguarded, and you are able to quickly bring to market new mobile services in record time – thereby saving time, resources, and money.  So, get some REST and find out what Vordel can do for you.



Permanent link to this article: https://demystifyit.com/hello-world/