Two factor authentication for thousands of users

If a company or an organization wants to provide two factor authentication for thousands of users they are faced with totally new challenges.

Users will not come to the administrators desk. The administrator will not enroll a hardware token or initialize the user’s smartphone with the Google Authenticator on a per user basis. There are so many users, that the administrators or helpdesk users do not even know all the end users anymore. There must be a solution, that the enrollment process itself hands the authentication object to the user and ensures the identity of the user – preferably automatically!

Users might be spread over cities, countries – worldwide. They are ordinary end users and often not computer savvy. The rollout and the usage of two factor authentication should bother neither the end user nor the IT department too much.

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privacyIDEA Enterprise Edition for Univention Corporate Server

The current version 2.21.4 of privacyIDEA Enterprise Edition is now available for Univention Corporate Server.

We already wrote about the new features in privacyIDEA 2.21 in a previous blog post. Now UCS users can also profit from these enhancements. privacyIDEA can be updated from version 2.20.1 to 2.21.4 easily from within the Appcenter.

Secure Rollout of Smartphones

privacyIDEA Authenticator

Using the smartphone and the privacyIDEA Authenticator App users can securely log in to e.g. the company’s VPN.

The most interesting feature of privacyIDEA 2.21.4 is the secure rollout of smartphones. During this process a part of the secret key is generated on the privacyIDEA server and the other part is generated on the privacyIDEA Authenticator App.

The privacyIDEA Authenticator App is currently available for Android phones via the Google Play Store.

You have questions? Ask us!

privacyIDEA Enterprise Edition 2.21.1

Today we released the stable version 2.21.1 of the privacyIDEA Enterprise Edition.

The Enterprise Edition as version 2.X.1 is released a few weeks after the corresponding major public release and contains necessary bug fixes. You can read about the features of version 2.21 like the secure smartphone enrollment in our previous blog post.

Version 2.21.1 fixes the following bug:

  • The LDAPS connection to the user directory like OpenLDAP or Active Directory only used TLS1.0. The administrator can now configure the user resolver to also use TLS1.1 or TLS1.2.

About the Enterprise Edition

The Enterprise Edition of the Multi-Factor-Authentication system privacyIDEA is ment for enterprises and organizations, which need a reliable update process. It is available for Ubuntu 16.04LTS, CentOS7, RHEL7 and the Univention Corporate Server. In addition the enterprise edition contains an appliance that helps you quickly and easily set up a high available master-master replication.

Please contact us if you have further questions, if you want to test the enterprise edtion or want to book a workshop.

privacyIDEA 2.21 with a more secure smartphone enrollment

Today privacyIDEA 2.21 was released. Read about it on the privacyIDEA project page.

With privacyIDEA 2.21 it will be possible to enroll smartphone based tokens in a more secure manner and mitigate the threat of simply copying the QR code of the enrolled token. NetKnights still runs a beta test of a new smartphone app. You are welcome to join the beta test!

Also there are enhancements in the event handlers, the rotating of the audit log and the customization of the UI.

The version 2.21 is available via the Ubuntu repositories for 16.04LTS and 14.04LTS and the python package index as a community version.

The enterprise version 2.21.1 will be realeased in a few weeks. Just contact us for any questions.

privacyIDEA Authenticator – the better smartphone factor

privacyIDEA Authenticator Smartphone App

The smartphone is our daily tool and the digital copy of our own identity. This is not the place to discuss the social implications. We just state the fact.

The Smartphone as the second factor

Due to this fact many organisations and companies like to use smartphones for a security improved authentication process. The smartphone is “always” with the user and is the device, that is accepted by the user. Using applications like Google Authenticator the smartphone is supposed to become the second factor for authentication. Although the smartphone is obviously not as secure as a dedicated hardware token, the privacyIDEA Authentication System has supported smartphones as  a possible second factor right from the start.

But taking a look at a smartphone app like the Google Authenticator there are some security issues. We discussed this in detail in a previous blog post. The problems with the rollout process using the Key URI defined for the Google Authenticator, finally made us develop our own privacyIDEA Authenticator. As an Open Source company we use the Github-Repository to transparently develop the privacyIDEA Authenticator app.

Secure enrollment

The first and most important feature from the long feature list is securing the enrollment process. To do so, the privacyIDEA Authenticator allows to generate one key component on the smartphone itself and another key component on the privacyIDEA Server. The final OTP seed / key is generated from both components.

This way we avoid the easy cloning of the secret OTP seed during the enrollment process. By cloning the OTP seed users were easily able to create undistinguishable copies of the OTP token and thus making the smartphone as a second factor to identify the user useless. Using the privacyIDEA Authenticator you will be able to leave this problem behind.

Beta testing

The privacyIDEA Authenticator app is backward compatible with Google Authenticator and FreeOTP. Its full potential will be unleashed with the privacyIDEA Server starting with version 2.21. Starting with this version the mentioned two-step-enrollment is supported.

The privacyIDEA Authenticator app is available in a controlled beta state. privacyIDEA 2.21 will be available this month. Using the Python Package Index or the developer PPA repository for Ubuntu 14.04LTS or 16.04LTS you can already install the release candidate of the server.

Install using the Python Package Indes:

pip install privacyidea==2.21dev2

Or install using the PPA respository:

add-apt-repository ppa:privacyidea/privacyidea-dev

You can get more information about the installation in the online documentation.

If you want to test the privacyIDEA Authenticator app you are welcome to drop us a note. We will add you to the beta test. You have the possibility to influence the development of the app. The privacyIDEA Authenticator is currently available for Android. The installation during the beta tests is done via the Google play store. Thus you do not need to change any settings of your smartphone.

Get in touch to be part of the beta test!

Transaction signature and federated authentication with privacyIDEA4UCS 2.20.1

The privacyIDEA Enterprise Edition version 2.20.1 is now available for Univention Corporate Server. You can install or update privacyIDEA 2.20.1 on the UCS easily from the Univention App Center.

Please note that the subscription handling was changed in privacyIDEA4UCS. You now no longer need a special license file but the common subscription file, which is used with the common privacyIDEA Enterprise Edition. Existing clients already received the new subscription file. If you are running tests in a demo environment, you can create your own demo subscription file for privacyIDEA4UCS.

OCRA, Display-TAN and Federation in privacyIDEA 2.20.1

We already posted about the common release of privacyIDEA version 2.20.1. Now also customers running privacyIDEA on UCS can use the awesome new features:

New token types OCRA token and the Display-TAN card are not supported. In contrast to classic authentication scenarios the OCRA token also allows the signing of transaction data. Using an OCRA token the user can testify, that the data set he is sending is correct. The recepient can cryptographically verify, that the received data is still valid and unmodified. This can be used in banking scenarios and other applications, where data must not be modified.

A second main feature is the federation handler. This allows to forward special authentication requests to other, subordinate privacyIDEA systems. This is interesting for federated organizations and infrastructures. Departments may run their own privacyIDEA systems. A central privacyIDEA system in the orgnization can then forward the authentication requests to the corresponding departments.

A complete changelog can be found here.

Get your personal subscription file for privacyIDEA4UCS!

We are happy to answer any of your questions!


privacyIDEA 2.20.1 Enterprise Edition released

Today we released the stable version 2.20.1 of the privacyIDEA Enterprise Edition.

The Enterprise Edition as version 2.X.1 is released a few weeks after the corresponding major public release and contains necessary bug fixes. We already wrote about version 2.20.

Version 2.20.1 now fixes some minor bugs:

  • When using PostgreSQL database the administrator can now filter for the data as expected.
  • During enrollment the default realm will be set as default in the UI.
  • Errors with PassOnNoUser and PassOnNoToken were fixed.
  • The genkey parameter during enrollment was consolidated.

The Enterprise Edition of the Multi-Factor-Authentication system privacyIDEA is ment for enterprises and organizations, which need a reliable update process. It is available for Ubuntu 14.04LTS, Ubuntu 16.04LTS, CentOS7, RHEL7 and the Univention Corporate Server.

Federated authentication with privacyIDEA 2.20

Today we released privacyIDEA 2.20. Packages are publically available in the Laundpad repositories for Ubuntu 14.04LTS and 16.04LTS. You can also install the new version via the Python Package Index on any other distribution.

New Features in privacyIDEA


The new federation handler allows to forward authentication requests to sibling privacyIDEA instances.

This way you can setup network structures, where brances of an enterprise or sub organizations can run their own privacyIDEA instance under their own control. Authentication requests will be handled by a central privacyIDEA instance and forwarded to the corresponding instance, where the user and the user’s tokens are managed.

This way business devisions, departments or sub contractors can manage the tokens of their own employees.

The federation handler also offers new possibilities and business models for service providers.

New token type OCRA and DisplayTAN

In version 2.20 we also added the basic token type OCRA and the special type DisplayTAN. The DisplayTAN is a hardware card, which can communitcate with a smartphone via Bluetooth LE. This way the OCRA challenge is sent to the card, the user can check the challenge data and the card will generate an OTP value as response.

OCRA is specified in RFC 6287. A common use case is signing bank transactions. This way a TAN (OTP value) can be generated in hardware, and this TAN totally depends on the transaction information. Thus privacyIDEA can be perfectly used to manage authentication and signing devices for banking scenarios. We already talked about this in a previous blog post.

Login with different login names

The LDAP resolver now allows that a user can login with different LDAP attributes. The administrator can specify the list of attributes, which may be used as login names. This way an user can choose if he will login with the sAMAccountNAme, the email address or a telephone number.

Authentication cache

The administrator can now define if and how long succesful authentication should be cached. This way it is possible for a certain amount of time to authenticate with the very same OTP value again. Yes, this is not the original idea of OTP. But certain specific applications may need such a functionality. This behaviour is specified in an authentication policy, which can also depend on time and client IP.

More functions

Many policies now allow to use resolvers in the policy definition. This way the administrator can define the behaviour of privacyIDEA depending on user groups in detail.

During the rollout process of smartphone tokens, privacyIDEA display a QR-Code to the user. If the user is in doubt, that the QR-Code may be also seen by an attacker, he can now immediately regenerate the QR-Code.

All event handler definitions can now be ordered to your needs. This way the administrator can precisely define the behaviour and reaction of privacyIDEA.

The conditions of event handlers may now contain times and time deltas.

Challenge Response tokens can now be used to unlock the UI.

While installing Ubuntu packages, a PGP key pair is generated. The public PGP key can be easily used to encrypt the seed files before importing tokens.

You can find a complete changelog at Github.

Enterprise Edition and Consultancy

NetKnights provides consulting and support with the privacyIDEA Enterprise Edition. Using Open Source you optimize your total cost of ownership this way, that there are no external limitations which dictate how long or short your may use the software. Getting the privacyIDEA Enterprise Edition including an SLA you get the warranty and thus operating safety.

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You want to know more? Get in touch!


Welcome dialog and privacyIDEA subscription

privacyIDEA is enterprise software. Managing lots of authentication devices for lots of users is a task that occurs in a company network.

privacyIDEA is licensed under an Open Source license. This guarantees, that a company using the Open Source software privacyIDEA can use this software for life. In contrast prorpietary software or software-as-a-service (SaaS) can be changed, billed differently or even completely deleted. You could not do anything about it. The Open Source privacyIDEA is under your control – forever.

The Open Source license dos not mean that a company has no costs in regards to two factor authentication. At least they need to pay the administrator.

In any case the Open Source license states that this software comes without any warranty. A company using privacyIDEA needs to be aware of this.

privacyIDEA is Open Source and thus comes without any warranty by default.

Due to this we decided to add a welcome dialog in version 2.20. This welcome dialog points out the fact, that it is important to get a Service Level Agreement (privacyIDEA Enterprise Edition) when running this software in an enterprise environment.

The administrator can define a policy (scope=webui, action=hide_welcome) which deactivates this welcome dialog. Anyway, if you run privacyIDEA with more than 50 assigned tokens and without subscription/SLA, we think it is a good idea, to warn the administrator again about the intrinsic risk running a software without warranty. The welcome dialog will be displayed again.

Using this approach we hope to help companies understand the legal situation when running privacyIDEA.

You are welcome to contact us with any questions.

World Wide Web Consortium is enrolling 2FA using privacyIDEA

Kassel, September, 26th 2017. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is implementing privacyIDEA for securing access to their infrastructure with a second factor. The privacyIDEA Authentication System was chosen due to its flexible nature and the possibility to allow a single sign on experience for the users.

The services and especially the users are distributed world wide. Shipping authentication devices centrally is not efficient. Allowing only one type of authentication object is not an option. For W3C this is a big advantage that privacyIDEA can manage many different token type of different vendors at the same time. The lean REST API allows easy integration into their own user portal. W3C connected privacyIDEA to their existing user management. Users will be able to choose if they want to self-enroll Smartphone-Applications or U2F devices. Depending on the device type users gain access to resources of different security levels.

“Working with NetKnights is very effective. They provide just the right amount of consultancy for us to be able to implement the open source software privacyIDEA into our network and in our workflows.” said Ted Guild, Head of W3C Systems. Cornelius Kölbel, CEO at NetKnights, added: “W3C stands for Web standards. So we are very happy that W3C chose privacyIDEA, as this is an open solution, which complies to an open development workflow and open standards.”

About the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The mission of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is to lead the Web to its full potential by creating technical standards and guidelines to ensure that the Web remains open, accessible, and interoperable for everyone around the globe. W3C standards HTML5 and CSS are the foundational technologies upon which all Web sites are built. For its work to make online videos more accessible with captions and subtitles, W3C received a 2016 Emmy Award.

W3C’s vision for “One Web” brings together thousands of dedicated technologists representing more than 400 member organizations and dozens of industry sectors. Organizationally, W3C is jointly run by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the United States, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France, Keio University in Japan and Beihang University in China.

For more information see

About NetKnights and privacyIDEA

NetKnights GmbH is located in Kassel, Germany. It is an independent IT Security firm, providing services and products in the fields of strong authentication, identity management and encryption. NetKnights employs the core developers of the modular authentication system privacyIDEA.

privacyIDEA is open source software and thus has not vendor defined end of life. Customers can own their privacyIDEA installation and use it without restrictions. NetKnights provides different subscription and support levels of privacyIDEA Enterprise Edition to meet the requirements of companies.

From October 10th-12th NetKnights presents privacyIDEA at the IT security fair it-sa in Nuremberg, Germany, at stand 10.1-208.