US banks give cautious welcome to Liberty/SAML network ID specs

US banks give cautious welcome to Liberty/SAML network ID specs

US bank-backed Financial Services Technology Consortium (FSTC) has given a cautious welcome to the Liberty Alliance and SAML specifications for developing single sign-on digital identity standards.

The FSTC report follows a six-month evaluation of current industry initiatives in identity management. The review evaluated financial industry requirements against the Oasis Security Assertion Markup Language V1.0 specification (SAML) and Liberty Alliance Identity Federation Framework V1.1 specification, which incorporates SAML.

"While both specifications are strong technical foundations for building network identity customer relationships, these technologies are only part of a complete network identity solution," says Zachary Tumin, FSTC executive director. "Financial institutions must pay as much attention, if not more, to traditional industry concerns such as risk exposure, liability, auditing, customer support, and compliance issues."

Results were based on an analysis of business and technology requirements for three typical financial industry use cases: employee single sign-on to enterprise partners, business-to-business single sign-on, and business-to-consumer account aggregation.

The FSTC suggests the employee to enterprise partner scenario fits well with both technologies, and "appears to provide a suitable opportunity for early industry adoption". For business-to-business use, Liberty and SAML are equally considered "well suited" to the support the needs of financial institutions in the business supply chain. In account aggregation, the report concludes that the use of SAML technologies would offer financial institutions an option to eliminate the sharing of confidential customer credentials.

FSTC members that contributed to the development of the report include financial institutions such as Citigroup, Fidelity, JPMorgan Chase, University Bank, and Wells Fargo. Technology vendors providing input include Digital Resources Group, eONE Global, Hewlett-Packard, Niteo Partners, Sun Microsystems, and Yodlee.

"While both Liberty and SAML technologies provide much promise for our industry, standards bodies and technology vendors still need to make it easier for financial institutions to develop and deploy network identity solutions," says Jim Salters, director of technology initiatives and project development at FSTC. "Interoperability and performance, for example, are two areas of concern."

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