Safe and Secure with CILogon


We’ve all been there. A login prompt pops up on the screen and you stress as you try to remember one of the dozens of passwords you have to manage in your online life.  These moments were exactly what the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) wanted to address when they began working on CILogon.

Logging in securely is important for most services that require it – no one wants someone guessing their password for an online clothing store and having 50 pairs of jeans sent to some far-flung state. But with the resources and data most researchers work on in ACCESS, it’s all the more important that this crucial key to access is secure. Research on an allocated resource could be the culmination of years of study. The data may include sensitive information. That’s why it’s so important that an app that secures logging in is as safe as possible.

With CILogon, researchers can even use their existing credentials from their home organizations to log in. There’s an added benefit that applications like CIlogon also reduce the amount of technical support needed to keep accounts up to date since users don’t need to request new accounts and passwords if they choose to log in using existing credentials.

The CILogon team members (from left to right): Jeff Gaynor, Heather Flanagan, Scott Koranda, Jim Basney, Terry Fleury, and Benn Oshrin.

“Without CILogon you have to set a new username and password for every system used,” said Jim Basney, principal research scientist at NCSA and head of the four-person team who developed CILogon in the CI Security Research Group. “You need to use a password manager and it’s more inconvenient for the users and the system operators who have to deal with more passwords and password resets.”

Roughly 20,000 users from 500 organizations worldwide use CILogon, according to Basney. Keeping a consistent experience is also part of the mission of the CILogon team. “We’ve been around for more than 10 years because some of these scientific collaborations last that long, and some have been around for 30 years or more,” said Basney. “They need stable cyberinfrastructure. They don’t want to worry about what’s changed from year to year.”

By keeping the login process safe, simple and consistent, the CILogon team is ensuring that researchers can spend less time learning the system, and more time doing their research. The team continues to adapt the application to new systems to make sure disruptions to researchers are at a minimum. “We want to be able to help science projects keep up to date,” said Basney. “If we update our platform, they don’t have to worry about it.”

You can read more about this story here: Security made simple with NCSA’s CILogon

Project Details

Institution: NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications)
University: University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Funding Agency: NSF
Grant Number: See above.

CILogon is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers 0850557, 0943633, 1053575, 1440609, 1547268, 1548562, 1738962, and 1840003 and by the Department of Energy under award number DE-SC0008597. CILogon operations are supported by subscribers.

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