Enabling Risk-Based Identity Assurance: VMware Workspace ONE + RSA SecurID Access

VMware’s Workspace ONE provides a digital workspace platform with a seamless user experience across any application on any device. Users can access a platform native catalog to download and install applications regardless of whether its an IOS, Android, Win10 or MacOS device. They can access both Web and SaaS applications as well as their Virtualized applications including Horizon and Citrix.  Workspace ONE is designed to keep the user experience “Consumer Simple” while keeping the platform “Enterprise Secure”.

VMware promotes the “Zero-Trust” approach when accessing corporate applications. Workspace ONE Unified Endpoint Management is a critical element to achieve a zero-trust model to ensure the device itself is secure enough to access your corporate data.  However, to achieve a zero-trust model we need to include both the Device Trust and the Identity Context.  This is where the Risk-Based Identity Assurance offered by RSA SecurID Access becomes the perfect complement to Workspace ONE.

RSA SecurID Access makes access decisions based on sophisticated machine learning algorithms that take into consideration both risk and behavioral analytics. RSA SecurID Access offers a broad range of authentication methods including modern mobile multi-factor authenticators (e.g., push notification, one-time password, SMS and biometrics) as well as traditional hard and soft tokens.

I’m pretty excited about the integration between Workspace ONE and RSA SecurID Access because its offers extreme flexibility to control when and how multi-factor authentication will be used. After the initial setup, it also allows me to control everything from Workspace ONE.

RSA SecurID Access provides 3 levels of assurance that you can leverage within your access policies. You have full control to modify the authenticators into the appropriate levels based on your licensing from RSA.

You can create Access Policies in RSA SecurID Access that will map to the appropriate assurance levels:

In my environment, I’ve created 3 policies:

Once you’ve completed your access polices you can then add your Workspace ONE tenant as an relying party.

Now this is where things get really interesting and you’ll see why i’m excited about this integration. Its fairly common for a digital workspace or web portal to call out to an MFA provider to perform the necessary authentication and return the response. The problem that typically comes into play is whether the authenticators being used for MFA are too much or too little for the application being accessed.  In most cases, the MFA provider is not aware of what application is being accessed and is only responding the call from the relying party.  Keep in mind that “User Experience” is at the forefront of the Workspace ONE solution.

The integration between Workspace ONE and RSA SecurID Access allows us to control which Access Policy (or level of assurance) will be used from within Workspace ONE.

In Workspace ONE, we can create the same policies that we did in RSA SecurID Access:

In Workspace ONE we can directly assign Web, SaaS or Virtual applications that require High Assurance into the “High Assurance” access policy and apps that require “Medium or Low Assurance” into the appropriate policy. When applications are accessed in Workspace ONE, it will automatically send the request to RSA SecurID Access with the requested policy to use for authentication.

So how does Workspace ONE specify which policy RSA SecurID should use for authentication? Its actually quite simple.  The integration between Workspace ONE and RSA SecurID Access is based on SAML.

Initial authentication into Workspace ONE will typically come from Mobile SSO or Certificate Based Authentication (although other forms of authentication are available). After the initial authentication or once the user clicks on a specific application, Workspace ONE will send a SAML Authentication Request which will include the subject who needs additional verification:

<saml:Subject xmlns:saml=”urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:assertion”>

        <saml:NameID Format=”urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:1.1:nameid-format:unspecified”>steve</saml:NameID>

</saml:Subject><samlp:NameIDPolicy AllowCreate=”false”

When the SAML Request is sent from Workspace ONE, it will also include the access policy as part of the SAML AuthnContextClassRef:

<saml:AuthnContextClassRef xmlns:saml=”urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:assertion”>urn:rsa:names:tc:SAML:2.0:ac:classes:spec::LowWS1</saml:AuthnContextClassRef>


You can see in the AuthnContextClassRef we are specifying the specific policy that RSA SecurID Access should use for authentication. 

When you create a 3rd Party IDP for RSA SecurID Access, you can specify the AuthnContextClassRef when defining the authentication methods:

I’ve actually left out a key element of the RSA SecurID Access solution, which is the Risk Level. Even though we’ve specifically called out the Low Assurance Policy, we can have RSA dynamically change that to High based on the user’s risk score. RSA SecurID Access can use an “Identity Confidence” score to choose the appropriate assurance level. This is configured in the access policy:

By leveraging RSA SecurID Access with VMware Workspace ONE we can now have risk-based identity assurance on a per app level within Workspace ONE. For current Workspace ONE customers, this integration is based on SAML so it does not require radius and has no dependency on the VIDM Connector.

Together this keeps the user experience great on apps that might not need a high level of assurance and keeps the enterprise secure on the apps that require the high level of assurance.

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