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Long Live Kerberos

Today, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced the formation of the MIT Kerberos Consortium to further fund and steer the development of Kerberos beyond what MIT has been able to achieve to date supporting this protocol with its own internal IT staff.

This Consortium is a great idea that will bring more partners, developers and standards work into play for MIT Kerberos. One has to pause to celebrate the accomplishments of the impressive internal IT staff at MIT who have helped this small internal project become an important part of every major operating system, the core to thousands of enterprises’ security infrastructure and a solution used by hundreds of millions of users.



Red Hat has long shipped MIT Kerberos as part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Over the past six months we have also invested effort into an open source project, freeIPA, which leverages MIT Kerberos together with Fedora Directory Server to make the central management of identity, policy and audit more simple in the Unix/Linux world. For efficiency, compliance and risk mitigation, organizations need to centrally manage and correlate vital security information including:

  • Identity (machine, user, virtual machines, groups, authentication credentials)
  • Policy (configuration settings, access control information)
  • Audit (events, logs, analysis thereof)

freeIPA version 1 consists of an MIT Kerberos 5 server using a Fedora Directory Server backend. The goal is to make it easy for developers and administrators to set up centralized identity management for their world using the directory as the central username and password store and kerberos as the means of authentication and single sign on. Organizations could do this on their own today, but many hesitate because of the complexity. We will make things easier including providing a fixed schema, simple configuration tools to easily set up an IPA server and replication, command line tools and an intuitive GUI for user and group management.

We want to make sure this solution can manage identity and authentication well for Linux and Unix boxes. And we hope our efforts inspire upstream package owners to kerberize a lot more packages. Early developer versions are available for download on www.freeIPA.org.

Later, with freeIPA, we plan to enable the use of Kerberos to easily establish machine identity and service identity. This will enable applications to communicate easily and securely and will enable us to make access control solutions available.

So, as you can see, we at Red Hat are bullish on MIT Kerberos. We look forward to the expanded efforts of the MIT Kerberos team.