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Re: National Student Clearinghouse authentication changes
From: Theresa Rowe <rowe () OAKLAND EDU>
Date: Mon, 10 Nov 2008 15:46:56 -0500

We've just started looking at this here, so we appreciate any insights.  We
are all likely just starting out, though.

On Mon, Nov 10, 2008 at 11:17 AM, Kevin Shalla <kshalla () uic edu> wrote:

The NSC requirement goes into effect on Jan 1, 2009, so I wonder what
schools are doing between now and the end of this year.

At 08:58 AM 11/10/2008, Steven Carmody wrote:

At 10:01 AM -0600 11/7/08, Kevin Shalla wrote:

Now the NSC no longer offers that option, and is requiring us to switch
to a system where we authenticate the student, then pass the SSN in the URL
to them.  Apparently now they want us to do their authentication for them.
 It seems to me that passing the SSN in the URL would allow the user to
simply modify the SSN in the URL to someone else's and then gain access to
the information for the person with that other SSN.  What are others doing
regarding this NSC policy change?

Several fall conferences included a presentation describing a current
pilot involving NSC and Stanford Univ. They are using a Federated approach,
based on industry standard security approaches. Both parties happen to be
using the Shibboleth software. However, bottom line, they are using an
industry standard -- SAML 2 -- to exchange messages containing personal
information that MUST be secured -- and are doing so in a secure and trusted
fashion, without exposing the personal info during transit or in log files.
(One hopes that with the approach that Kevin describes that the NSC web
server logs don't contain the parameters on the url...)

With the federated approach, the campus authenticates the student, and
then provides trusted assertions to NSC (or any other service provider) to
describe the browser user. In NSC's case, this could include the student's
SSN (or perhaps a student ID number would work as well?). With this
approach, the campus would control which attributes are sent to each service
provider (ie the campus will presumably only send SSN to a very small set of
very trusted partners).

Note that this is a pilot, and there are currently no guarantees that NSC
will take this approach to production. I expect that Conferences in the
spring will include a report out on the status of this pilot, and describe
any future steps.

Theresa Rowe
Chief Information Officer
Oakland University

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