John Dix: Single sign-on doesn’t have to be difficult

Eye on the Network

Asked how his firm is coping with hard times, a reader from a large New York firm said last week that all IT projects are on hold until the first quarter of 2002. The only projects that stand a chance of getting funding are those that one, can save money, or two, generate revenue.

Passlogix is offering a technology that fits the first category: a single sign-on product that can simplify employee access to myriad homegrown applications or masses of incompatible back-end systems.

The savings? Potentially huge, particularly in shops struggling with integration nightmares as a result of mergers or acquisitions. Passlogix Inc. CEO Marc Boroditsky says he knows of one company with 35,000 employees that spends US$3 million per year just to maintain the passwords of its 5,000 customer service agents.

The customer service folks need to be able to access account information on multiple legacy systems left over from a string of mergers. And security policy mandates that passwords have to change every 30 days. Result: mayhem.

That’s where Passlogix’s v-Go product can help. Once loaded onto desktops, it runs in background mode, always on the lookout for procedures and routines concerning passwords. When something is detected, v-Go completes the procedure without the user even knowing it.

The same applies when a password expires. V-Go intercepts the prompt and inputs a new password without involving the user.

Having the software on the client means Passlogix doesn’t have to wrestle with a problem plaguing server-based single sign-on products: the need to customize links to the resources that users need to access. That means v-Go can be implemented in weeks versus months, Boroditsky says.

V-Go runs on Windows 2000/NT, Millennium Edition, 98 and 95, as well as NetWare. It works with any Lightweight Directory Access Protocol-compatible directory, as well as with popular private-key encryption systems.

Asked if v-Go isn’t a security threat itself, Boroditsky said everything is encrypted and the product has a perimeter defence that watches for attachment requests. If it sees anything suspicious it shuts those processes down.

The software costs $70 per user, plus 20 per cent for maintenance and support.

This won’t appeal to everyone, but there might be groups within your company that could benefit immediately.

Dix is Editor in Chief of Network World (U.S.). He can be reached