SWITCH Identity Blog

The Identity Blog puts the spotlight on identity management, digital identities, identifiers, attributes, authentication and access management.


User-centricity is the right way to go

Pierre Deshayes, team leader and expert engineer “Infrastructures and Systems» at University of Geneva, explained at the SWITCH edu-ID update event (slides) how the change from AAI to SWITCH edu-ID took place.
Here is a summary:

A special IdP setting at University of Geneva

“Since February 25, 2021, the approximately 36,000 members of the University of Geneva have been able to use SWITCH edu-ID for all federated web services. The situation turned out to be somewhat more complex in Geneva than at other universities, because nowhere else was the local Shibboleth IdP used as extensively as here: All authentication – external and internal – went through this one identity provider. With the use of SWITCH edu-ID’s central IdP, this type of single sign-on was no longer possible. It was therefore necessary to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages and ensure that operation with external authentication would continue to function smoothly and in compliance with data protection requirements. Various questions led to answers, which SWITCH was able to make available to other universities in the form of legal FAQs.

Convincing advantages

In the end, the following points tipped the scales in favor of the migration: The possibility of standardizing the registration process in the medium term and the user-centric approach of SWITCH edu-ID, which allows lifelong use of services from different universities with one account.

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Looking back and forward (follow-up discussion)

As in 2020 we’ve organized the TRID WG meeting and SWITCH edu-ID update event as online meeting because of the COVID restrictions.
Nevertheless, around 70 members from different organisations have decided to participate, which of course makes us very happy.
Highlights were the guest contributions by Pierre Deshayes about the migration experiences at University of Geneva and Manne Miettinen about the edu-ID initiatives in Finland. You find the corresponding slides here.

Follow-Up Discussions

Many questions were asked, ideas were proposed and there was a lively exchange, which we would now like to deepen in follow-up discussions.
The first of these meetings will be held on June 23, 16:00-16:45. Then we will be happy to discuss “Authentication Methods: New methods? Parameter tuning” – the topic rated as the most important at the event.
If you would like to participate please register here.

We will communicate further follow-up discussion topics and meeting dates via this mailing-list and our website.


Which e-ID does Switzerland need?

On 7 March, Switzerland rejected proposed legislation to establish an e-ID.
As a neutral and independent foundation for Swiss universities, SWITCH has over 20 years’ experience in the field of electronic identities and participated in the process of designing the e-ID. We interviewed Christoph Graf, Programme Manager of SWITCH edu-ID, about the next steps in introducing an e-ID in Switzerland and the role SWITCH can play in this process.
Read more.


Three phase adoption at UNIL

Christopher Greiner, service coordinator, UNIL IT:

It has been two months since our move to edu-ID, here is a recap of our trials and tribulations in switching identity provider.

The University of Lausanne (UNIL) successfully migrated to SWITCH edu-ID on the 10th of February 2021.

We had been preparing for this migration for quite a long time: we first heard about the Swiss edu-ID project back in early 2014. Our university had been one of the early adopters of SWITCH AAI, and quite heavy users of the service, so we were very interested in hearing what SWITCH had in store for the future of this digital identity; we decided to take part in the workshops organised by SWITCH, thinking that the earlier we were involved, the easier it would be for us to find solutions specific to our university’s needs.

Figure 1: Poster for the edu-ID migration

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Trust & Identity WG Meeting / SWITCH edu-ID Update Event 2021

SWITCH invites you on Wed, 26 May 2021
to the 4th Trust & Identity WG Meeting combined with the SWITCH edu-ID Update Event (online).

Registration is open until Friday, 21 May 2020.
There you will find as well the preliminary agenda and meeting topics.
We are looking forward to the contributions of our colleagues from Geneva and Finland.

Details (links etc.) will be provided three days in advance to registered participants.

The event is aimed at the following target groups:

  • IdP and SP Administrators
  • Home Org Administrators
  • RRA & Attribute Policy Administrators
  • IdP hosting customers and
  • IT staff with interest in authentication and authorization

for both – Swiss universities that still use SWITCHaai and those that have already switched over to SWITCH edu-ID.


What’s the SWITCH Trust & Identity WG?
The SWITCH Trust & Identity WG comprises representatives of all

in the Education, Research & Innovation (ERI) Community.

This group is informally involved with the further development of SWITCHaai/edu-ID and SWITCHpki and has the opportunity to provide feedback if there are questions or changes upcoming.


HfH goes edu-ID: a successful first phase


Sarah Frederickx, Head of Digital Learning Center at Hochschule für Heilpädagogik Zürich HfH (University of Teacher Education in Special Needs Education)

Planning

In November 2019, we talked about SWITCH edu-ID seriously for the first time. We planned to work out the changeover in 2020 and so as to actually switch over in 2021. Naturally, it didn’t go as planned. After a thorough analysis of our systems and a definition of our roadmap (two phases) at the beginning of 2020, everybody forgot about the edu-ID implementation project because of the lockdown in March. In May, though, the pressure of the new library system swisscovery, which requires a SWITCH edu-ID account, grew stronger, and we decided to attack our first phase.

The lowest complexity level

Our first phase only had the one goal: changeover to edu-ID. Nothing else! No changes in processes, no changes in our systems. Nothing complex. So, we implemented a linking service and the affiliation administration with our partner who hosts all our students’ mailboxes. Easy-peasy.

Success

Everything went very smoothly in November 2020. Thank you, SWITCH, for all the help, discussions, templates, checklists, and so much more. Thank you, exigo, for the professional and smooth technical implementation.
We had sent an info mail 10 days before the change and a reminder two days before the changeover. Brace yourself after you send out the reminder! The support cases then rose until very shortly after the change. But after a few cases, we had standard email texts for seven different problem cases that almost covered it all. By now, a few months later, 87% of our users have linked their SWITCH edu-ID account to HfH.

Aftermath

We still have lots to do to streamline our processes and make user management better and easier. But before that, we’ll do our second phase, and we’ll do just that.
Our second phase is the change from ‘Linking after admission’ to ‘Linking at registration’. New students will (have to) have an edu-ID before we enter them into our systems. Everything else will come later. With only few resources, we break things down and proceed one step at a time.


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UNIBAS: Smooth sailing with SWITCH edu-ID

Project team: 
Dominik Hofer, Stefan Keller, Andreas Scheppele (KOGIT GmbH), Xiang Wang, Erwin Wendelspiess, Jan Stucki, Thomas Mundschin

Successful transition

“For the University of Basel (UNIBAS), the changeover to SWITCH edu-ID went smoothly. The project was a success, because everything was well prepared from a technical point of view and it did not cause any big issues with regard to communication and user feedback.
Successful projects often remain “under the radar”. The management sometimes hardly notice projects, when everything is running smoothly. This is our motivation to write this short success story:

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PH Zug + edu-ID: Linking should be easy for users

With the University of Teacher Education Zug, the second PH switched to SWITCH edu-ID on 7 October 2020.

Abdel Benhauresch, head ICT PH Zug

Abdel Benhauresch (head of the ICT PH Zug), can you tell us a little bit about how the adoption of SWITCH edu-ID took place and what further objectives the PH Zug is pursuing after the successful changeover?

“We are a relatively small university with a core of about 800 users and about three times as many people who attend our continuing education courses.
Accordingly, our IT is small and efficiently structured. Projects have to be well planned and implemented in stages.
The preparations for the adoption of SWITCH edu-ID started two years ago. At first it was unclear when the new Campus Management System (CMS) would go live. Finally, we decided to switch to edu-ID first and to use the new system not before 2021. This means that we will then have to check the interaction of edu-ID with the new CMS.
For the linking process we decided to use a function in Microsoft Azure, because all our users use an Azure Active Directory account (AAD) to authenticate.

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PHBern now also on the road with edu-ID

On August 19, 2020, the Berne University of Teacher Education (PHBern) switched over to SWITCH edu-ID, thus filling the dozen:


More than 8000 students and employees of the PHBern now have an edu-ID account and can use it to access services of their own PH as well as those of other Swiss universities which are open to members of PHBern.

Ulrich Weisenseel, head Services Informatik PHBern, about the planning and adoption:

“When the first planning steps were taken in 2018, the analyses showed that PHBern users accessed more than 100 services via AAI accounts. A picture that looks similar at many universities. University members usually access 10 to 20 times more external than internal services, with the number of logins naturally being highest for the most prominent services such as a university’s own Learning Management System. At PHBern, ILIAS and the intranet “My PHBern” swing out at the top in terms of access numbers.

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BFH goes edu-ID

Monday, August the 3rd, 2020: The day starts with a big bang. Early in the morning, the engineers at SWITCH “flip the switch” (pun intended) and Berner Fachhochschule (BFH) has gone edu-ID.

Philippe Seewer, IT software engineer / IT architect at BFH, gives an insight into the preparatory work at BFH:

Significant changes are tough

Well, to be honest, it is probably more a loud pop than the proverbial start of the universe. Still, it is a change that affects pretty much everyone in our organization. For a long time, almost all publicly accessible non-Microsoft resources have used SWITCHaai as the method of choice for authentication. Among these is our own Moodle server – today an essential service for all courses. No access to Moodle does not necessarily mean classes would shut down, but it would undoubtedly be a lot harder.

Accordingly, we selected August for the switch on purpose. Although the bachelor/master semester start is a few weeks off, research and continuing education courses take place. However, since it is a bit quieter than other times of the year, this gives us at IT-Services the necessary time to implement significant changes.
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A fast track to edu-ID for PHZH

End of June 2020 PH Zurich has adopted SWITCH edu-ID.

Pascal Schmitt, team leader webcenter PH Zurich about this experience:

“With regard to the future library system solution SLSP, PH Zurich has decided to push the changeover from SWITCHaai to SWITCH edu-ID.

After the first technical workshop with SWITCH, it soon became clear that we would opt for a loose integration of edu-ID (linking after admission scenario) and that this would mean an easily manageable effort for us to implement the necessary changes.
A central identity management system was already in place at PH Zurich and it was only a matter of

  • connecting the affected edu-ID identifiers with the account information of the PH Zurich and to
  • extend some processes.

However, there was a challenge that we did not see from the beginning: In order to ensure compatibility with SWITCHaai – specifically that service providers already using SWITCHaai recognize a person even after the adoption of edu-ID – the former AAI ID must be written into the affiliation itself. This has to be taken into consideration when building a so-called linking service.

The tests ran all perfectly and the switch was made in no time.
Only 4 months passed from the decision to implement SWITCH edu-ID to the actual conversion. This fast changeover was also possible thanks to the good and timely support by SWITCH.”

Links:


TRID WG Meeting & SWITCH edu-ID Update Event: Look back and forth

This was the first time we could not meet in person at Berne. But still it was a very inspiring occasion for us to come together via SWITCHinteract on May 20.
Around 50 members of universities and related organisations have participated in this three hours online meeting with a very dense programme which illuminated various aspects of SWITCH edu-ID.

Our first keynote speaker Stéphane Recrosio (UNIFR) has provided insights about the adoption of SWITCH edu-ID at the university of Fribourg like planning, communication, support and do’s and don’ts as a result of the experience gained.

While the second keynote speaker Maarten Kremers (SURFnet) talked about the implementation of eduID in the Netherlands it became obvious that similarities to SWITCH edu-ID are probably not purely coincidental.

Beside those two presentations many topics could only be touched upon briefly due to the shortened programme duration, like SLSP status, Kerberos/SPNEGO, Office365, technical accounts, duplication handling, re-use of email addresses, small organisations, service description, eduroam.ch, edu-ID roadmap or AAI and PKI news.
The complete presentations are available here.

The current list of universities adopting SWITCH edu-ID is published on the SWITCH edu-ID website. Only 4 time slots are are still available in 2020.

We hope to see you again in person at Berne during the next Trust & Identity Working Group Meeting and SWITCH edu-ID Update event on May 19 May 26 2021 – please save the date!


The very last call for funding!

Update 6 May 2020/cg: Due to shifted priorities in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, SWITCH decided to add an additional call for participation. This article – originally published in February 2020 – is now being republished with new timing information.

The Swiss edu-ID project has been running since 2014 and comprises several phases. The last phase starts in May July 2020 and is expected to last until the end of 2020 (Deployment Step 4.23).

In this phase, universities can again submit project applications for planning & migration to SWITCH edu-ID.

LAST OPPORTUNITY TO APPLY FOR FEDERAL FUNDING, which will be made available by swissuniversities within the framework of the P-5 programme.
DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTING APPLICATIONS IS 31 MARCH May 2020.

Eligible to apply are recognised universities which have already started planning work (regardless of whether this work has been completed so far or not).
The application should be made using the sub-project application form.
In the case of a migration project, the application is supplemented by a brief description of the scenarios and the procedure.
If you have any questions and in order to obtain the appropriate template, please contact eduid@switch.ch.

In the meantime, six universities and two other organisations have switched to SWITCH edu-ID. Various universities are already planning to switch from AAI to SWITCH edu-ID in 2020. Interested institutions should therefore announce their plans as soon as possible, so that SWITCH can coordinate the preparatory work and changeover date with them.


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Update to the TRID WG Meeting / SWITCH edu-ID Update Event 2020

The Trust & Identity WG Meeting combined with the SWITCH edu-ID Update Event on Wed 20 May 2020

Registration is open until Friday, 8 May 2020 and mandatory (only registered users and accepted guests may enter the meeting room).

The event is aimed at the following target groups: IdP and SP Administrators, Home Org Administrators, RRA & Attribute Policy Administrators, IdP hosting customers and IT staff with interest in Microsoft / Office 365  for both – Swiss universities that still use SWITCHaai and those that have already switched over to SWITCH edu-ID.


What’s the SWITCH Trust & Identity WG?
The SWITCH Trust & Identity WG comprises representatives of all SWITCHaai Participants and SWITCHpki Participants in the SWITCH Community and the Extended SWITCH Community.
This group is informally involved with the further development of SWITCHaai/edu-ID and SWITCHpki and has the opportunity to provide feedback if there are questions or changes upcoming.