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Kerberos Thinks Big

Authentication technology could be the watchdog for an even wider world.

In September, MIT founded the Kerberos Consortium to support and expand a network authentication protocol developed at MIT in 1983. Kerberos, named for the three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades in Greek mythology, watches over both client and server when a user signs in to a system. Built into all major operating systems, it has succeeded beyond MIT’s ability to support it alone. That’s what prompted the formation of the consortium, which–among other things–hopes to adapt ­Kerberos for use with more types of hardware, including mobile devices, so it can function as a universal platform for network authentication.

Today, organizations that want to use products incompatible with their security infrastructure must accept inferior security or roll out more infrastructure, adding cost and complexity. “Kerberos works well with a lot of security technologies,” says Kerberos Consortium chief technolo­gist Sam Hartman. “It provides a framework to glue things together rather than limiting the infrastructure choices.”

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