Aug 032011

I guess that anyone reading this  will already know that Shibboleth is an open source federated user authentication infrastructure that allows control of user sign-on between or within an organisation/s.  I had a vague memory from childhood Sunday School classes that there was an older meaning to the word apart from the Times crossword type definition of a feature that belies your social or ethnic origins.

So just in case there is a person left who hasn’t Googled “Shibboleth” here are the conclusions from 5 mins of browsing.

The origin is from Hebrew in the  late Bronze age (1100BC). It was used as a test of racial origin to try and filter out a group called the  Ephraimites from the Gileadites. In a nut shell anyone attempting to cross the river Jordan after a particularly nasty battle was asked to pronounce the word Shibboleth (meaning stream or  ear of wheat) . If you were unlucky enough to pronounce it Sibboleth then you were for the chop as you were clearly an Ephraimite ( who didn’t have the “sh” sound in their language) or were just unlucky enough to have a speech problem. This is supposed to have lead to about 40,000 executions! So really it was an early form of biometric identification, which sounds more advanced than some of today’s security systems.  Now I assume that with  modern-day software development, failing to pass the Shibb authentication  only results in minor annoyance and no longer leads to capital punishment, but I will be a little more careful when entering my user-name and password from now on.

 Posted by at 10:48 asides Tagged with:

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