Oracle Identity and Access Management with EM12c: Red Pill or Blue Pill?

It seems all too often that when users are unable to access an end-user business function protected by a IDAM (Identity and Access Management) solution, the IDAM system gets the brunt of the blame and in a lot of cases without justification. Today’s corporate web based business functions are comprised of complex systems based on a service oriented applications.  As such, it can be difficult to diagnose particular issues in a timely manner to preclude having to restart several components. As the issue persists, security controls may be removed or bypassed all together resulting in another set of problems. In many cases the root cause does not get identified and a repeat incident occurs.

Example Use Case

Consider a system that hosts a web application providing an end-user business function to allow users to sign up for service and be able to pay their bills online. To protect the web application, an Oracle IDAM system, referred to as the SSO Stack, is implemented to provide access control and data protection for the end-users. As you can see, there are a lot of complicated flows and dependencies in the systems.


Suppose an issue has been reported by an end-user and technical support personnel are logged in to try and resolve the issue. To illustrate the complexity of the issue, suppose an end-user cannot access the system to pay their bill. Without having an in-depth knowledge of what is going on inside the systems, it is difficult to determine if the web application is the problem or if the problem is related to the SSO Stack. If it is the SSO Stack, which component is at fault?

Remember the movie, the matrix, “take the red pill” and find out what is really going on in the matrix. “Take the blue pill” and you live in ignorance and bliss. When troubleshooting systems, the tendency is to: collect and analyze logs on each of the system components independently, trouble-shoot at the network level, and execute manual user tests, all time consuming. How many times have you heard someone say “I can ping the server just fine” yet the problem persists.


“What if I told you”, testing at the application layer provides a more accurate indication of what is really going on inside the system. The business functionality is either working as intended or it is not.  Applications performing the business functions can be modeled as services and tested in real-time. Service tests can measure the end-user’s ability to access a service and if automated, allow issues to be resolved before end-user complaints start rolling in. Service tests strategically placed in each critical subsystem can be used as health checks determining which system component may be at fault if there are reported issues.

EM12c Cloud Control Service Model

With EM12c Cloud control, business functions can be modeled as services to be monitored for availability and performance.  Systems can be defined based on target components hosting the service. As a service is defined, it is associated with a system and one or more service tests. Service tests emulate the way a client would access the service and can be set up using out-of-the-box test frameworks: web testing automation, SQL timing, LDAP, SOAP, Ping tools, etc. and can be extended through Jython based scripting support.  The availability of a service can be determined by the results of service tests or the system performance metrics. The results of the system metrics can be utilized in system usage metrics and in conjunction with service level agreements (SLAs). Additionally, aggregate services can be modeled to consist of sub-services with the availability of the aggregate service dependent on the availability of each of the individual sub-services.

Example Use Case Revisited with EM12c Service Model

Revisiting the issue reported in the previous use-case, it was not a trivial task in determining whether it was or was not an SSO issue and which component or components were at fault.  Now consider modeling the consumer service and running web automation end-user service tests against the web application. Consider the SSO stack as a service modeling the Identity and Access Management functionality. The SSO Stack can be defined as an aggregate service with the following subservices: SSO Service, STS Service, Directory Service and Database Service. The availability and performance of the SSO Stack can be measured based on the availability and performance of each of the subservices within the SSO Stack chain. Going back to the problem reported in fig 1, the end-user could not access the web application to pay their bill. Suppose service tests are set up to run at the various endpoints as illustrated in figure 3.  As expected, the end-user service tests are showing failures. If the service tests for the Directory Service and Database are passing, it can be concluded the problem is within the OAM server component. Looking further into the results of the SSO Service and STS Service the problematic application within the OAM server can be determined. As this illustration points out, Service tests provide a more systematic way of trouble shooting and can lead you to a speedier resolution and root cause.


Em12c Cloud Control Features

The following are some of the features available with the EM12 Cloud Control monitoring solution to provide the capabilities as mentioned not available from the basic Enterprise Manager Fusion Middleware Control.

  1. Service Management:
    1. Service Definition: Defining a service as it relates to a business function. Modeling services from end-to-end with aggregate services.
    2. Service tests: Web traffic, SOAP, Restful, LDAP, SQL, ping etc. to determine end-user service and system level availabilities and performance.
    3. System monitoring. Monitoring a group of targets that represent a system that is intended to provide a specific business function.
    4. Service level agreements (SLAs) with monitoring and reporting for optimization.
  1. Performance monitoring
    1. Defining thresholds for status, performance and alerts
    2. Out-of-the-box and custom available metrics
    3. Real-time and historical metric reporting with target comparison
    4. Dashboard views that can be personalized.
    5. Service level agreement monitoring
  1. Incident reporting based on availability and performance threshold crossing, escalation and tracking from open to closure. Can also be used to track SLAs.
  2. System and service topology modeling tool for viewing dependencies. Can help with performance and service level optimization and root cause analysis.
  3. Oracle database availability and performance monitoring:
    1. Throughput transaction metrics on reads, write and commits
    2. DB wait time analysis
    3. View top SQL and their CPU consumption by SQL ID.
    4. DBA task assistance:
      1. Active Data Guard and standby Management
      2. RMAN backup scheduling
  • Log and audit monitoring
  1. Multi-Domain management: Production, Test, Development with RBAC rules. All domains from one console.
  2. Automated discovery of Identity Management and fusion middleware Components
  3. Plug-ins from 3rd party and developer tools with Jython scripting support to extend service tests, metrics etc.
  4. Log pattern matching that can be used as a customizable alerting mechanism and performance tool.
  5. Track and compare configurations for diagnostics purposes.
  6. Automated patch deployment and management.
  7. Integration of the system with My Oracle Support

As a final note and why it is referred to as EM12 Cloud Control

One of the advanced uses of Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c is being able to manage multiple phases of the cloud lifecycle—such as the planning, set up, build, deployment, monitoring, metering/chargeback, and optimization of the cloud. With its comprehensive management capabilities for clouds, Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c enables rapid deployment and end-to-end monitoring of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS)—including database as a service (DBaaS), schema as a service (Schema-aaS), and middleware as a service (MWaaS).

Dallas PCI Event – April 9th

Best Practices for Protecting Payment Card Data (PCI) to help ensure compliance and reduce risk.

Event Overview

News headlines about the increasing frequency of stolen information and identity theft have focused awareness on data security and privacy breaches—and their consequences.

Payment card use is widespread today.  Along with growing global use, the industry has experienced a troubling increase in incidents of financial fraud. In response, the leading  payment card companies
worked together to develop a set of technical and operational requirements designed to protect cardholder data, commonly referred to as PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard).

Recent high profile data thefts, along with industry statistics, indicate significant work remains to be done in most organizations to implement PCI DSS.

Topics to be covered:

•Current trends, issues and concerns around sensitive data security
• PCI and the changing Threatscape
• Looking beyond the compliance checkbox
• The future of the PCI-DSS
• What can be done to harden defenses against the exploitation of privileged users, unauthorized access and information-related vulnerabilities
•How to create a centralized data security platform 

Date: April 9th, 2013
IBM Technology Exploration Center (TEC)
1503 LBJ Freeway (Luna and 635), 5th Floor
Dallas, TX 75234-6059
8:30am – 11:00am

8:30 am         Breakfast and Registration

8:45 am          Welcome and Introduction

9:00 am          Keynote – Christian Nielsen, Pathmaker

10:00 am        Keynote – Michael Murphy, IBM

11:00 am        Closing Remarks

Christian Nielsen, Ph.D., PCI-QSACN

PathMaker Group

Christian has over 30 years of experience in security and networking technology. He has earned advanced degrees in Information Systems while staying active in the corporate world. In addition to his corporate career, Christian is training the next generation of master’s degree students in cyber security. Over the last several years, he has worked to assist business clients prevent and remediate the many security and compliance challenges they face.

MMMichael Murphy

Worldwide Solution Architect
Data Governance Center of Excellence

Mike Murphy is a Worldwide Solution Architect for the Data Governance Center of Excellence specializing in  real-time database protection solutions for reducing risk, simplifying compliance and lowering audit costs.
Over the last six years, Mike has worked with hundreds of customers conducting risk assessments and proposing technology solutions to protect against data breaches, and to ensure adherence to regulatory data protection standards such as HIPAA HITECH, PCI-DSS & SOX 404.

RSVP to or 817-704-3644

Developing Useful Information Security Policies

Going through the process of developing a set of policies for your workplace is a must as you reach some point of growth within your organization. Many companies operate for years without taking the time to develop a standard set of information security policies. We have started to see an uptick in the number of organizations making the move toward budgeting time for policy development, testing, and implementation as a result of the various regulatory requirements the business may be subject to. I want to take a moment of your time to cover some areas I recommend you think about as you go through the process of putting together the necessary policies for your organization. Read more

Minding your P’s and P’s

It seems that there is a constant barrage of regulations and standards that businesses must comply with. Every quarter there is a new audit; SOX, GLBA, HIPAA, PCI, and the list goes on. Businesses try to accommodate these requirements by adopting structured governance model which presents their own requirements, seldom aligning perfectly with the others. Fortunately, there is a common thread woven into all these business detractions. If managed properly, that thread can be a lifeline to save much of the time and effort required to meet regulatory requirements. So what is this thread? It’s your policies and procedures.

Policies and procedures are the foundations of your businesses activities. They are the rules that you play by. They also can make up much of the evidence required by auditors to show that you understand and intend to comply with whatever regulation or standard being applied at that moment. Policies are high level management directives. They are designed to indicate to the company’s workers that management has made a commitment to something which they expect the staff to uphold. Policies are typically general in nature. Specifics are usually in the domain of the procedure. Read more

Security and Identity Management Solutions for the Healthcare Industry

Do you work in the medical or healthcare industry? Is your company in need of security or identity management solutions? If so, here are some of the key ways in which PathMaker Group can provide value in this field.

Enterprise Single Sign-on Doctors and nurses have a lot of passwords to manage as well as using shared workstations creating potential issues around people sharing a user ID to an account and people leaving an application or patient information open on a shared workstation. With ESSO, PathMaker Group can give the users a secure way to store all their passwords and automating the login and logoff process.

  • ESSO can be paired with an RFID badge – a quick tap of the badge can log a user on or off from the workstation, saving the time of entering the user ID and password over and over again as they switch between machines all day. A proximity sensor can be added to workstations to automatically lock them when a user forgets to tap out as they walk away from the machine.
  • Shared Workstation Management – Shared machines can be configured to be locked when an ESSO user leaves the workstation. When the next user comes in, any apps left open by the prior user can be gracefully closed to prevent the new user from having patient access under the prior user’s account.
  • Context Management ESSO can further streamline the process of accessing patient records across multiple applications. Tools, such as CareFX Fusion Context Management, provide the ability to script the sharing of patient identification across applications, removing the need for constant searches and patient lookups. Read more

Security and PCI-DSS Compliance

The question of whether compliance makes your networks secure often comes up when performing Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) remediation and audit work. Many believe that compliance with the PCI-DSS means their networks are secure from exploitation. Unfortunately this is not the case. Passing an independent PCI audit usually indicates reduced vulnerability for those PCI related areas tested, however the PCI segments are usually a small portion of the overall networks.

The payment card industry has one goal in mind and it is not to protect or provide security for your network. Their goal is to protect credit card and card holder data. They do this to limit their potential liability and transfer responsibility for that liability to the entities that provide, accept, use, store or transfer credit card and card user information. That is almost all businesses and many institutions here and around the world. Read more

The Importance of Hiring an Experienced, Qualified Security Assessor for Your PCI-Compliance Audit

With the stiff penalties associated with failure to meet standards set by the PCI Security Council, ensuring that your company remains compliant and avoids security breaches requires regular PCI compliance audits. Hiring qualified security assessors can help you avoid a number of potential pitfalls associated with audits. Opting to hire the most experienced candidates offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Getting it Done Right
    In 2004, CardSystems Solutions was hacked, resulting in 263,000 stolen credit cards and roughly 40 million compromised. This breach occurred despite their security auditor giving them a clean audit just three months prior. Hiring experienced PCI compliance auditors to perform your audits lessens the likelihood of potentially costly mistakes.
  • Continued Security
    Experienced PCI compliance auditors not only understand current standards, but they understand the areas in which the current standards fall short. This allows you to proactively anticipate security risks and protect your customers’ data. Understanding the current problems, as well as the next generation of threats, allows you to remain in compliance and prevent costly security breaches. Read more

Leveraging Centralized Log Management in a PCI DSS Environment

Enterprise environments generate vast amounts of log data on their own before even being required to meet PCI DSS section 10 logging requirements. When taking into account the volume of logs from the large variety of sources across a network it is important to find an effective and efficient manner to address this data. IT departments could easily dedicate one full time employee to this task alone when logs are decentralized across the organization and need to be reviewed, at times, on a daily basis. Admins also face the daunting task of having a working knowledge of the vast array of system interfaces used to access and review this data where it is stored by default. Obviously this configuration is highly inefficient as well as impractical. The only logical solution to meet the PCI DSS required logging volume as well as the review requirements is a centralized log management system. PathMaker Group offers such a solution, built on a SaaS platform, that can provide the necessary functionality, usability, and reporting that PCI DSS requires. Read more

PCI Updates

I thought i would take a few minutes to wish everyone happy holidays and a very prosperous 2011. I also noticed that I hadn’t blogged in a while so I thought I do a little of that…

This blog provides a few updates and observations related to the following:

  • PCI DSS v1.2.1 to PCI DSS v2.0 transition – very well defined, except for the cut-over date. The bottom line is that the PCI SSC is encouraging all merchants and service providers to convert as soon as possible, but at the same time saying everyone has until New Years Eve 2011 (one year).
  • PCI DSS and PA-DSS v2.0 Scoring Templates – QSAs can’t plan their projects without the new Scoring Templates. This will stall migrations.
  • Sampling And ASV Scanning Do Not Mix – this wasn’t a like a free lunch but some still manage to screw it up…
  • PCI DSS Timeline Clarification Read more