A key goal of business technology systems is to ensure that the right people have access to the right information at the right time. Entitlements Engine is a fine grained authorization engine that externalizes, unifies, and simplifies the management of complex entitlement policies—strengthening security and compliance, improving IT efficiency, and enhancing business agility. These authorizations may be used to protect the most fine grained business or IT concept. Many organizations look into this as high prioritized need and to be managed by Centralized Application/Tools for proper Authentication and Authorizations.
Essentially, systems accomplish these requirements by enforcing a set of policies that regulate the behavior of system components and resources to match the “access” profile of the user accessing the system. At the most abstracted level, the system forces a user to specify and verify who they are (authentication) and then limits resources that can be accessed or manipulated by the user (authorization). Policies and rules govern each of the two facets. These two components of access management impose different types of challenges and requirements.
Authentication – establishing and validating identity. In most cases user ids and passwords presented at login screens/forms suffice.
Authorization – what information is a user permitted to access and manipulate – can impose very complex requirements.
The Entitlement Engine will be a critical enterprise component that addresses the requirements for fine-grained, context-sensitive authorization requirements. Authorization needs are not hard coded into applications, but rather specified as “configuration” in a UI provided by the Entitlement Framework. It is intended to be “application context aware”, thus providing a means to express very fine-grained authorization requirements to the system. It integrates as a service layer with the application, providing loose-coupling. In addition, it can be integrated within an application’s presentation and validation framework to eliminate screen-at-a-time integration effort – making the execution seamless to developers.
Authentication: Before a user or another system can access any resource managed by the system, the requesting entity must establish and “authenticate” their identity. At a high (simple) level, this process is implemented using one of several authenticating forms (certificates, logins, biometrics, etc.), depending on the context of the request and the requirements of the established policy. Most commonly, a user provides credentials (user-id, password) at “login”. If the provided credentials meet the security requirements, system can proceed with the identity of the validated user. The authentication process is supported by a multitude of rules and policies (e.g., password rules, expiration policies, failed attempts, etc.) that guard against users (and other systems) trying to gain unauthorized access.
In Current Entitlement Engine Authentication is not addressed as this is maintained by other Third party tool.
Authorization: In an organization or business unit there are people in different roles who are required to perform specific tasks – but not authorized to perform other tasks. Enterprise applications and resources facilitate these individuals in performing their job functions efficiently and effectively. As these applications and resources will be accessed by people with different levels of authorization, applications require the capability to provide the necessary restrictions based on the role the user has.
Role Based Access Control (RBAC):
The first part of the authorization approach relates to restricting system access to authorized users based on the role they have. Thus, authorization is expressed as permission sets based on roles.
RBAC is considered “Coarse-grained” authorization and is used to define broader-level functionality (features or resources) a role can access. Users are assigned one or more roles. When that user logs in to a particular application, the application can determine what resources (menu items, screens, etc) that user can access, based exclusively on their role.
At this level, we cannot define the “context” in which the feature is being accessed and, therefore, not specify a specific permission set for a “context”. For example, the authorization policy – that a Credit Reviewer cannot approve a Commitment – can be expressed and executed just based on a user’s role.
We also do not have a way of creating a profile based on the user skill set and assign permissions that are based on attributes other than role.
Attribute Based Access Control:
The second part of the authorization approach augments RBAC capabilities to allow policies based on attributes of a user (e.g., skill, age, etc) and/or the environment (e.g., time, network, etc). While this notion can be extended to additional attributes (like application or business object), there is no structured (or simple) mechanism in off-the-shelf products to facilitate accessing these attributes or to define policies applicable to these attributes. Further, these tools do not support out-of-the-box facilities to help integrate with applications to execute policies in a runtime environment. Managing fine-grained control in a flexible manner while lowering the cost of delivery and maintenance requires the framework to be “context aware”. It must support exposing application and object attributes (e.g., screens, forms, button in an application or loan amount, LTV, etc.) at definition time so that policies for these (and other) attributes can be defined for profiles and roles. In addition, the framework needs to support convenient integration with the application framework. Moreover, the architecture of the framework must allow efficient execution of privileges at runtime so that the system will scale with high volumes.
The objectives of the proposed Entitlement Engine are:
- Fine grained authorization which gives the flexibility in defining the permissions based on a context for a specific role or profile.
- Policies can be defined with relevance to context.
- To provide centralized way of defining and evaluating policies based on the application, object, roles, profiles and resources. Changes are achieved through “configuration”.
- To integrate with the application framework and perform efficiently, since policies are defined as values, ranges and lists for attributes and not in a computer language.
4. Solution Approach
The approach proposed here it to develop and deploy an Enterprise Entitlement Engine and Framework that specifically meets the sophisticated needs of the organization. Below is the level of access or security control that Entitlement Engine is proposed to have.
Traditional IAM tools like (Oracle Enterprise Manager, IBM TIM and TAM, WSO2 Identity server) are good in providing a centralized way of access management at the enterprise resource level (show a form or not show a form) but not for managing “sub-resource” level details and privileges. They lack a centralized way of access management at the Object, Record and Field level, particularly in the context of an application that manipulates these objects.
The proposed Entitlement Engine provides some critical features to meet the necessary requirements.
- A business user interface to define profiles and associate access to the lowest level (field or data in a field) per application.
- Entitlement engine provides the permissions for a specific role or profile based on the object hierarchy for the application once the user logs in.
- As the permissions need to be evaluated for all the users who login the engine would be performance sensitive and would need to bring all the permissions and access on the whole object hierarchy. As we are not going to evaluate the permissions on each and every field, the approach is to cache the context specific retrieved entitlements so that there would be zero latency in the requests made by the application.
- The Entitlement Engine also provides a way for certain role to delegate some of his permissions to the roles under him. This gives the flexibility for the manager to maintain business continuity even in his absence. All the activities done would be audited and tracked for future reference.
- Entitlement engine provides services, which can be accessed by applications, which are built in any language and get the permissions. The engine provides RESTful web-services which could be integrated for better performance.
- Entitlement engine provides various reports on the profiles created, usage of applications, delegations made by profiles, changes in object permissions etc. This helps the management as well as the compliance team to make sure the access to the applications and features within the applications is based on the standards defined.
- Entitlement engine is built upon a framework which could be extended as needed as well can integrate with any existing systems as needed.
- Entitlement engine has inbuilt caching mechanism’s implemented which bring down the response times for requests from applications. The architecture is built-in to consider high availability and fail-over by proper load balancing at various layers.
5. Entitlement Engine Features
Entitlements System has the following features:
In our entitlements system we treat every enterprise resource as a system. We can define different kinds of systems like Web Application, Web Service, Database, FTP server, any network device etc., by using our pre-configured metadata about different system types.
Below are the high level features
- Defining System
- Associating attributes defined in the System type to System
- Associating Object Hierarchy to a system
- Defining allowed access types to the objects in the object hierarchy
Object Hierarchy Management
This feature allows defining and associating an object hierarchy to a system. Every system has a specific object hierarchy. We have pre-configured object types which can be associated to these objects or we can extend the metadata as needed. At the object level we can define what different kind of access can be allowed on this object.
Every feature (System, Profile, Access and Object) in the entitlement system is based on a type. The configuration management helps in defining the metadata for the features provided by the entitlement system.
Below are some of the configurations
- System Type
- Object Type
- Access Type
- Identity Provider
Profile defines what level of access a user has with a particular system. Profiles are created for specific systems and then associated with user(s), role.
High level features
- Profile Creation - A particular profile can be created for the System Object hierarchy.
- Profile Delegation - This feature allows a manager to delegate some or all of his objects from a profile to a sub-ordinate. The manager can also specify the duration and can change the level of access for that delegated profile.
- Profile Configuration - Profile can be configured against associated system object hierarchy. Extended data constraints can be configured for objects in object hierarchy.
Integration with Third -Party Identity Providers
The entitlements system is powered to integrate with any third party Identity provider. The system has also the capability to define identities internally or map/sync the identities from different third party vendors. The internal structure mapped based on Users,
- Users - We have regular sync job which update the users in our entitlements system with the third party provider.
User Profile Management
Entitlement Engine facilitates mapping profiles to users.
These are the different services provider by our entitlements engine to the enterprise applications (for getting the entitlements for the logged in user). We have pre-defined services which can be accessed by REST Protocol.
Every action done on the entitlements system is tracked. We have a view and edit history on every feature (System, Profile, Object Hierarchy etc.) of the system.
There are several reports provided by our entitlement system which gives a high level as well as detailed information to the business users.
Below are some of the canned reports
- Users based on selected profiles
- Delegated profiles
- Profiles based on system
- Profiles mapped to users, organization units and cost center
- System level profile usages by user
There are back-end scheduled job to sync-up the identity info from the configured identity provider.
Note: The below are handled by a third party tools.
- Identity Management: The third party tool will be taking care creation, updating and managing the User identities.
- Authentication: The third party tool will be taking care of the authenticating the user based on the identity provider and provide a federated access or SSO implementation for the enterprise applications.
Windows XP/Windows 7(Development), RedHat Enterprise Linux 5(Production)
Eclipse / Java
Secondary Cache/Persistence Frameworks
PrimeFaces 3.5, Spring 3.0
Browser Compatibility Test
IE 6.0+, FireFox, Chrome, Safari
Web Server/Application Server
7. Advantages on Building on Open Standards
Our solution is built on open standards so that it’s easy to integrate with any IAM tool and heterogeneous applications based on different environments. Below are some of the details.
- We have built-in adapters which could be used by the enterprise applications which do understand the authentication tokens which are SAML based.
- We have built-in connectors which help the applications to communicate over SOAP, REST or Thrift. This gives the applications the flexibility to choose the protocol they need.
- We have built in service providers for giving out the defined application level permissions in the form of XML, JSON or Compact mode.
- We have built-in adapters when configured can talk to any XACML based PDP. This adapter does understand the XACML response and can provide the response back to the application based on their needs (SOAP/JSON/Compact etc.).
- Our solution is built on open source frameworks (Spring, Primefaces) and deployed over JBOSS as the application server.
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