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Federated Access Management

Shibboleth-logo-smallerFederated access management allows staff and students to access a variety of resources using their institutional username and password. Responsibility for authentication is devolved to the user’s home institution.

Benefits include a move towards the use of a single username and password for access to multiple internal and external resources (e.g. subscribed library resources, an institution’s VLE etc). There is also greater control for institutions (who are responsible for the management of user data), as well as the potential for more sophisticated levels of authentication.

The UK Access Management Federation, managed by JANET(UK), is leading Shibboleth-related developments in the UK (on behalf of JISC and BECTA). The Federation seeks to achieve consistency across educational sectors in the approach to access management, as well as the sharing of best practice.

What is Shibboleth? Shibboleth is an open source technology that enables federated access management. It provides a secure mechanism for passing user-related information between an institution (Identity Provider) and a content supplier (Service Provider). Upon attempting to access a resource, a user’s home institution is identified. Authentication is then handled by the home institution, according to attributes held in the local data store.

Who should be involved? Federated access management planning and implementation requires the input of management, library and technical staff.

Scottish Federated Access Management Forum (McShib)
This forum has been established to provide an opportunity for interested persons in Scottish tertiary education to meet, share good practice, and learn about the potential possibilities and pitfalls of implementing Shibboleth. It will be of interest to anyone involved in access management within their organisation, particularly IT and learning resources staff. Further information on the forum.

As institutions undergo implementation of federated access management, the focus is shifting to the impact upon libraries and the various library-related processes involved. A new mailing list has been established for library staff to discuss such issues, addressing some of the common library-related queries arising from the implementation process.

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