30 March 2015

Building a Password Checkout Service in OpenIDM

A common use case within the identity life cycle management world, is what to do with shared and privileged accounts.  Common accounts such as administrator, root, backup operator accounts and other delegated administration accounts, lead to a significant anti-pattern approach when it comes to password management.  For example, many shared service or administration accounts....are just that: shared.  Sharing a password is a very insecure method of account administration.

This generally brings out several security issues:

  • The password is generally none-complex in order for many users to remember it
  • The sharing of the password is not tracked - people who shouldn't know the password generally do
  • It's difficult to track who is actually using an account at any moment in time
Whilst these issues are well known...they are still prevalent, and hence an entire sub industry focused on privileged account management (PAM).

Whilst OpenIDM isn't a PAM product, some basic password checkout service use cases can easily be coded out using the custom endpoint component, in a few lines (say 150!) of JavaScript.


The above flow was implemented via a single custom endpoint - the Password Checkout Service. This service basically leverages some of the core functionality of OpenIDM, such as the scheduler, OpenICF connectors, policy engine and role based access control model.

The PCS is a few JavaScript files that basically does a few things.  Firstly it applies an RBAC constraint on who can use the service - simply driven by a role called passwordCheckoutService. 

Only members of the role can use the service.  The PCS then checks a white list for accounts the PCS can work against - we don't want to be resetting the password of a normal user! This white list exists in a a CSV called pcsValidAccounts. The PCS then checks it's request store - pcsRequests.  This store contains records of the following format: 

  • requestId - unique reference for that particular request
  • requestTime - time stamp 
  • account - userid of the account being checked out
  • accountPath - the OpenIDM reference to where the account sits
  • checkoutActive - is the current checkout still alive (boolean)
  • checkedOutBy - userid of the user performing the check out
  • resetTime - time in the future then the account will be reset

This demo stores the above in a CSV file using the out of the box connector, but a SQL connector could equally be used in production pretty easily.


Configuration is available for the following items:
  • duration an account can be checked out for (minutes and hours)
  • the length of the password to be issued
  • number of upper case chars in the issued password
  • number of numbers in the issued password
  • number of special chars in the issued password
The checked out passwords are notified to the calling user in the JSON payload, but could easily be sent via the OpenIDM email service, to a pre-registered email address to add a little more security.

The PoC-level source code is available here.

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