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How to address authentication challenges with ever increasing user demand

Thu 20 Aug 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

In the age of complex web-based applications, unmanaged mobile devices and an expanding global user base, it is increasingly difficult to ensure data center and resource security. Organisations are mandated to implement strong authentication systems that validate client access in real time.

The accelerated use of cloud computing, mobile devices and social networks have radically changed the way organisations administer their IT operations. Employees, partners, customers and vendors are demanding secure access to a growing range of applications—from anywhere and on any device. The support of secure, web-based solutions allows end-users to switch easily between applications, and to send and receive information efficiently and quickly.

Whether from on-premise or web-based client access, organisations need to validate user identities and ensure protection of sensitive information while eliminating data loss. Resources must be accessible yet remain secure and in regulatory compliance. The end user experience must be enhanced with automatic resetting of passwords and with quick access to content.

Authentication challenges

As networks, data centers and application resources become more complex; it is increasingly difficult to ensure security. This is compounded by an ever growing user base accessing network resources from unmanaged mobile devices via uncontrolled access points such as web portals. With innumerable BYOD clients accessing confidential and sensitive information, it is a constant challenge for IT administrators to identify attempts to compromise passwords, determine suspicious behaviour based on login monitoring, and distinguish end users and machines that deviate from network policies.

Organisations ranging from enterprise to government to cloud services run multiple mission-critical web and business applications, often including Oracle, SAP and Exchange. Usually end users and employees require access to these applications over the Internet, causing potential security concerns. Stringent network design and enhanced security policies are required to provide secure remote access to these high value assets where strong authorisation is essential.

Joint solution

In Australia and New Zealand, a joint initiative by A10 Networks and RSA is providing the answer to these challenges. The two have combined RSA’s Authentication Manager and its array of SecurID authenticators with the A10 Thunder Application Delivery Controller (ADC) and Application Access Module (AAM) module to secure enterprise and cloud-based operations. Their interoperable joint solution is fully tested and certified to provide a rapid and transparent integration of authentication services.

Craig Dore, Senior Authentication Lead for RSA Australia and New Zealand, says: "We are excited to add A10 Thunder to our growing list of partner product integrations. Solid integrations like this make two market-leading solutions so much better.  When deployed with SecurID, protecting applications and ensuring that only validated access to them behind A10's application delivery controller is painless and easy to do.  Anyone wishing to protect and accelerate backend servers such as Exchange, Sharepoint or cloud-based applications should certainly explore the A10 Thunder ADC." 

Benefits of the joint solution are substantial, as it enables users to:

  • Automatically identify and block unauthorised access using client behavioural analysis
  • Expand security though multi-factor authentication while simplifying log-in
  • Scale network security by offloading computational tasks from the authentication server
  • Ensure server availability through advanced load balancing and health monitoring
  • Offer seamless sign-on and validity checks for BYOD via OCSP
  • Eliminate multiple authentication points from diverse application servers

The RSA+A10 Networks solution offers an optimised, proven and interoperable strong authentication solution. The RSA Authentication Manager combines the strength of RSA SecurID with the convenience and flexibility of risk-based authentication.  Authenticating requests and centrally administering user authentication policies for access to enterprise networks is key to an optimal solution.

The A10 Thunder ADCs provide features for intelligent traffic management, application security, content delivery optimisation and SSL offload. With the A10 AAM module, authentication servers are divested of excess processing and an extra layer of security is provided. For this solution, RSA Authentication Manager and Thunder ADC’s AAM have been jointly tested and validated to ensure compatibility and ease of deployment.

The solution provides two-factor authentication to secure access to virtual private networks (VPNs), wireless networks, web applications, business applications and multiple operating environments. This tool leverages the largest set of RSA SecurID authenticators in the industry with support for numerous soft and physical tokens. Available as a physical or virtual appliance, the server is flexible enough to support a wide range of authentication methods, an advanced risk engine, ease of manageability, and interoperability with industry-leading products and vendors, including A10 Networks.

Risk-based authentication

Risk-based authentication is designed to protect access to the most common web-based applications, including SSL VPNs, web portals, Outlook Web Access (OWA) and Microsoft SharePoint environments. With the addition of this technique into the RSA Authentication Manager portfolio, organisations can now cost-effectively secure access to an even wider range of applications.

The RSA Risk Engine powers the most convenient method of strong authentication. It employs a combination of real-time device and behavioural analytics and dynamically adapts its risk model as new information is collected. Low-risk users are authenticated transparently, while high-risk users are prompted to provide additional proof of identity.

Manageability

RSA Authentication Manager includes a suite of built-in features that address the most time-consuming and costly tasks associated with managing an enterprise authentication suite. The user dashboard is a single-pane view designed to enable Help Desk administrators to quickly address the most common user inquiries without needing to run multiple reports or searches. The customisable Self-Service Console saves IT staff time by empowering users to manage their authentication methods. Deployed in the DMZ area of the network, the self-service portal allows users to change their own PIN, request a replacement token, request emergency access and access other troubleshooting services.

Flexibility

RSA Authentication Manager is designed to deliver choice and flexibility, including a range of authenticators such as hardware tokens, software tokens, on-demand authentication and risk-based authentication. An organisation can mix and match the preferred type of authenticator and easily provision and manage users on a single console.

Choice and flexibility extend to deployment options. RSA Authentication Manager is offered on a hardware appliance and a virtual appliance. The virtual appliance allows organisations to take full advantage of VMware ESX or ESXi virtualisation, which dramatically simplifies deployment. RSA Authentication Manager is designed to support a wide range of options, even including a combination of virtual and physical appliances.

Interoperability

RSA Authentication Manager is interoperable with many of the major network infrastructure and operating system products. The Secured by RSA program brings together hundreds of complementary solutions, including more than 400 products from over 200 vendors.

Secured by RSA helps to assure that organisations have maximum flexibility and investment protection. Leading vendors of remote access products, VPNs, firewalls, wireless network devices, web servers and business applications have built-in support for RSA Authentication Manager. And RSA has worked with A10 Networks to ensure full system level compatibility of A10 Thunder ADC.

Authentication offload

A10’s AAM solution, included with all A10 Thunder ADC appliances, is a set of services for optimising and enforcing authentication and authorisation for client-server traffic. This module functions transparently, and is interoperable with RSA Authentication Manager to offload computational tasks from both application and RSA’s authentication servers. Authentication processing adds overhead, and when multiple servers are involved, management complexity increases. Authentication servers can also be vulnerable to attacks.

With AAM, A10 appliances act as an edge authentication point for web services. Administrators can offload the drain of authentication processing to the device, increasing server efficiency and adding an extra layer of protection for web servers. AAM also offers Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP), which enables seamless sign-on and validity checks for BYOD and similar devices using certificate-based authentication.

The AAM solution provides centralised management of authentication for web servers. For example, an IT team can use AAM to require authentication to a previously internal-only wiki or website when accessed by external users. AAM serves as the central authentication point for external users. AAM can also eliminate the need to maintain separate authentication points on each web server.

Enhanced security

Managing multiple authentication points for various application servers can be a daunting task that increases network complexity. Setting up a client authentication scheme for each application may require costly and time-consuming custom development work. AAM provides centralised access policy management, while consolidation of multiple authentication points reduces interoperability and integration issues.

A10 appliances add an extra layer of security by providing pre-authentication functionality for business critical web server applications (such as Oracle Financials). Pre-authentication enables secure access to internal systems without the need to change multiple configurations in the existing infrastructure. AAM also offers a Kerberos Single Sign-On (SSO) security solution that allows non- Kerberos end users to access services protected by a Kerberos realm with a single login. End users do not need to log in again for subsequent requests until the session expires.

The AAM solution can also be quickly and seamlessly integrated into an existing application infrastructure. AAM provides enhanced protection and server efficiency by offloading authentication processing from AAA servers such as RSA Authentication Manager.     

Features and benefits

The RSA and A10 joint authentication solution provides users with new capabilities and important business benefits. These include:

  • Augmenting any application with a strong, multi-factor authentication layer provided by SecurID
  • Offloading authentication servers from excessive processing for better performance, greater scalability and faster response times
  • Advanced authentication server load balancing and health checks for ensured availability
  • Seamless integration of authentication services for rapid installation and configuration
  • Validated interoperable support for a broad base of authentication schemes
  • Elimination of complex multiple authentication points from every application server

With RSA and A10 working together, organisations can ensure that their data center applications and networks remain highly available, accelerated and secure.

By Greg Barnes, A10 Networks ANZ managing director 

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