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SecurID Rollout Calls for Planning

With two-factor authentication about to head out to the masses, a step-by-step plan is drawn up.

By Mathias Thurman
December 13, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - As I've mentioned in previous columns, my company has invested in RSA SecurID to provide two-factor authentication for access to our critical infrastructure, namely routers, switches, firewalls and production Unix servers. As you might recall, two-factor authentication entails something you have (like a bank ATM card) and something you know (your PIN).

On our network, the SecurID token (something you have) displays a random number, or "tokencode," which changes every 60 seconds. That, combined with a user-defined PIN (something you know), represents what is termed a "passcode."

To date, we have deployed about 150 tokens to mostly network engineers, systems administrators and information security personnel. They are fairly savvy individuals, so deployment, support and administration have been pretty straightforward.

Soon, though, we will begin to spread two-factor authentication to other areas of the company. Any employee who needs to remotely access the network via our Cisco VPN will need a SecurID token to authenticate to the network. SecurID tokens will also be required to associate to one of our corporate wireless access points. They'll be needed when off-site users check their e-mail via Microsoft Outlook Web Access. And the list goes on.

Eventually, every employee will have a SecurID token. Once that happens, it will be fairly easy to SecurID-enable applications and other areas of the enterprise, because no matter what a user is attempting to access, the use of the token remains the same.

For now, we're focusing on more than 5,000 employees, but deploying tokens to that many users and then supporting them calls for proper planning. A dedicated project manager is coordinating the various steps in this project, the first of which involves communication and training. We want end users to feel familiar with SecurID tokens before they actually receive one. The training and communication process will include mass e-mailings, a Web site with an FAQ and PowerPoint slides. Some of these materials have been developed by my infosec group, and others are being provided by RSA Security Inc.

Token Logistics

The next step will be distribution. Those 5,000 employees are located in almost every state and major city in the U.S., plus India, Singapore, China, Mexico and Europe. To handle this logistical nightmare, we're splitting the token recipients into three groups.

The largest of these groups by far is made up of employees who need SecurID tokens. We decided that the most efficient method of providing them is to have a consultant send tokens to geographically identified contacts, who will then deliver tokens to individual users. The consultants will be able to focus entirely on the token deployment and not be distracted by other duties.

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