Tech Industry

Financial customers get Liberty software

A computer sign-on system used by many top financial services companies is rebuilt around the Liberty authentication system initiated by Sun Microsystems.

A computer sign-on system used by many top financial services companies has been rebuilt around the Liberty authentication system initiated by Sun Microsystems.

Since 1999, about 22,000 customers of Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms have been using a service called SecuritiesHub from White Plains, N.Y.-based Communicator. SecuritiesHub, based on Communicator's Hub ID service, now has been retrofitted with the authentication standards from the Liberty Alliance Project.

Liberty simplifies the process of signing on to Web sites, requiring a computer user to sign on only once to get access to affiliated Web sites. SecuritiesHub lets customers tap into proprietary trading and bond information from the Wall Street firms with a single username and password. The software figures out which of the affiliated sites each customer has permission to use.

At the behest of Visa International, Sun began rallying support for Liberty in 2001 as an alternative to Microsoft's Passport authentication service. The first version of Liberty is now done, and Sun is building the software into its products.

In the earlier days of Liberty, Sun and Microsoft grappled for dominance over the single-sign-on idea, with Microsoft claiming more customers and Sun claiming more prestigious customers. As Liberty Alliance partners such as United Airlines have gradually gained some of the control Sun had over Liberty, the debate has cooled down somewhat.

Hub ID previously used a proprietary standard called Cooked URL, but Communicator decided to move to Liberty, which is based on the open Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) standard. The goal was to make it easier to expand the authentication service, the company said Thursday.

FXall, a foreign currency exchange system, also uses Communicator's Hub ID service, the company said.