Quest on 2-factor, and 3-factor, authentication

by dimikagi

Right on the heels of my last post (here, on a sister site) about the various smart cards, I get an email today that includes the following:

“CAC and Defender are both two factor authentication methods. They can be combined to give you three factor but I haven’t seen anyone do that. CAC uses the DoD PKI structure and Defender uses RADIUS to AD”

So I had to reply with the following:

QAS supports smartcards (and has for years now, including CAC) but doesn’t use Defender for this. Let’s back up and answer exactly what QAS and Defender do.

QAS provides AD integration to Unix/Linux/Mac systems. Defender provides RADIUS authentication using AD as it’s directory. Smartcards (like CAC and PIV) use PKI, not RADIUS, to authenticate the user.

The only time Defender gets involved with smartcards is if the card has a token (not a certificate) on it, in which case, it then provides authentication using that token. There are cards out there that are hybrids, and allow for both tokens and certificates. In that case, Defender only uses the token portion and ignores the certificates.

Now, if someone wants CAC support for QAS, you need to look for the QAS smartcard module, and the related license. To install it, the QAS ISO has a smart card install & admin guide, and you would look for the vassc package to deploy to your particular system. We currently support Red Hat (Linux), Solaris and Mac with the smart card modules.

The other thing that needs to be noted is that nothing that Quest provides can accommodate 3 factor authentication. At least, not on it’s own. As a quick review, the 3 factors to authenticate are:

  • Something you know (password, key phrase, hint, account number, username, etc)
  • Something you have (a key, a token, a certificate, etc)
  • Something you are (biometrics – fingerprint, retinal scan, voice print, etc)

Having multiple instances in the same category (a username, a password, and an account number, for example), does not constitute multiple factors. Now, QAS, Defender, ESSO and other Quest products can all co-exist with other authentication systems, but out of the box, you can get 2-factor authentication from us in a variety of ways, not three.

(edited 2011-11-09 to include link to post referenced in the first sentence)

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