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Day 1 - Identity

Level 17

What, exactly, makes up an identity? In IT security circles, an identity is built on authentication factors:

  1. What you know - A password or pin
  2. What you have - A security token or device
  3. What you are - Biometrics
  4. Where you are - Coordinates or separates confirmation from a system whose position is known

This is nice when I want to make sure nobody steals my THWACK ID and uses all my points to buy socks. But as I pondered the first word in our month-long challenge, I had to ask myself if that definition really spoke to the heart of the matter. Or, as a bunch of Brits eloquently asked the world in 1978, "Who Are You?"

It seems to me that true identity is harder to pin down, and yet made of sturdier stuff than four-factor authentication takes into account. Or to be more precise, authenticating myself to the universe around me might still require four factors, but not the ones laid out by security professionals.

Factor one: history

Certainly, who we were, once upon a time, factors in. But only if our past identity provides a context for who we find ourselves to be.

Factor two: action

Similarly, what we do is an important piece. As Carl Jung said, "You are what you do, not what you say you'll do." But many of us—inside the IT industry and out—have experienced moments when what we do is not what we are. Or at least not ALL that we are.

Factor three: destination

From this point, my thinking becomes much more esoteric. I believe that who we will be is also a fundamental component of our identity. In Torah, Moses asks God, "Who are you?" The reply is "Ayeh asher ayeh." Simplistic translations render that as "I am that I am," but grammatically, those words are much more complex. "Ayeh" more accurately translates to "I will be." Meaning that God's answer to "Who are you?" is potentially "I will be that which I will be," but I've even heard it translated as "I am that which I am becoming."

Why is this relevant? Because immediately before asking, "Who are you?" Moses asks God, "Who am I?"

The lesson is that our identity is inescapably wrapped up in that which we are in the process of growing into. And who, or what, is that?

Factor four: desire

In "The Merchant of Venice", Shakespeare (through his characters) ponders,

"Tell me where is fancy bred?

Or in the heart, or in the head?

How begot, how nourishèd?"

Not only is The Bard asking where desire arises from—our emotional center or our intellect—but he also questions how it came to be, and how it is nurtured (or not). We might know intellectually that something (or someone) is good for us, but find our hearts to be unwilling accomplices. Likewise, we may feel emotionally drawn to something that our rational mind says is a bad idea.

Regardless, our desires—whether professional or personal—play a significant role in determining our choices and therefore our identity.

Walt Disney, one of the most famous dreamers of our age, said, "All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them."

By his logic, who we are—our identity—is whoever we are brave enough to imagine ourselves becoming.


Footnote: Here at the start of the Word-a-Day challenge, I am filled with excitement and anticipation of all the things I'm going to learn about our community. I'm hopeful for the chance to grow closer. And I'm grateful that so many people are willing to use this space to openly dream, and in dreaming, become.

Level 11

I am very excited to start this challenge again this year. Thank you adatole​ for this opportunity.

Your identity is more than what you do, it is more of who you are.

Know this early in life and it will take you very far.

Level 15

I know that the identity of my professional self and personal self gets crossed from time to time, but the goal is have an identity that no matter what or where its one that i can stand behind, not in fear but on a firm foundation.   With the right foundation you can find any destination you seek.   You can act or take action because you have the foundation beneath you to do so.   Its important to know your identity early in life, but its also important to be able to change with like so you do not get stuck in the weeds and left behind.  IT is ever changing and you should always be prepared for what's next, but you don't have to go chase it, it will find you.  

Thanks adatole​ for this awesome opportunity.   Going to be a fun month. 


I find the Where You Are an interesting addition to authentication.  Back in my day when I was teaching class, it was always the first three.  I'm wondering how many organizations are taking into account location when authenticating.  We have monitoring applications that log IP address, so it can easily be obtained, but I don't know that they are being factored in when the user is logging in (except for those that are blocked by ACL).

Level 9

Timely reading: Troy Hunt's congressional testimony about Identity Verification in a Post-Breach World. He's presenting it today.

The whole thing is good reading, just a nugget here:

The prevalence with which our personal data is exposed has a fundamental impact on the viability of knowledge based authentication. Knowledge which was once personal and could be relied upon to verify an individual’s identity, is now frequently public knowledge.


Identity is a combination of facts, feelings, the past and other factors. I think we often fail to take into account all of the factors when we look at our own or the identity of others. You are not just what you do, or where you live or any of many different factors, but each of those elements are a part. For example, when people are biased, bigoted, or judgmental it's often because of a single factor - skin color, education, job title. When you take into account all of the factors then you can see truly who a person is. Doing so allows you to see the good in a person - and more importantly the value that they have.

Identity and value go hand in hand. If we don't have a good handle and understanding of who we are then we don't value ourselves as we should. When we don't take the time to really understand who others are we are doomed to devalue them.

Level 9

I have seen banking apps on my phone (which has GPS access) challenge me more when logging in far from my home city. If I am in the city it expects I don't have to answer the extra challenge questions. As more devices get GPS information it should be more reliable to take location in to account during authentication. IP location could be used, but might not be very reliable with VPNs and other methods to make it look like you are somewhere else, either intentionally or not.

jeremymayfield To pursue happiness my goal is to have as little conflict between my presented identities in all the contexts of my life such as work, family, public, and alone. When there is to much conflict I feel uneasy and then it is time to change the context - new job, leave the party, etc. My professional identity is always changing because the job requirements are, but I make a big effort to remain true to who I want myself to be.

kneps​ Interesting read. I hope I can watch the hearing live. I saw mention the other day of a Representative in Congress commenting the we should consider using Public/Private key technology instead of SSN. When a citizen needs to present proof of identity they would issue a certificate to the requester. Who could then verify the validity with the public key. Identity would be "secured" by your possession of the private key. The problem is how would you protect your private key and the mechanism for certificate creation, yet still be easy enough for everyone to use?

adatole"The lesson is that our identity is inescapably wrapped up in that which we are in the process of growing into. And who, or what, is that?"  Some sociologists speculate that this is confined by your vocabulary - both verbal and non-verbal. If you can't imagine it you can't become it. So to grow into something you must first learn what it is. Hence life long learning is great importance to grow into something new. For it is the essence of being human to imagine all the possible future selfs you might become and then make a choice to journey that direction.

Level 9

Yep, there has to a better solution than SSN. On the other hand, with a private/public key system, a snafu like this can happen and suddenly ALL the keys are vulnerable.

No easy solutions.


Level 10

A personality, in a loose sense, is the sum of all experiences to date; everything from all our senses builds how we think and act and live. From this also comes the desires and ways we would act, talk and think.

I've very recently taken the step to leave a decade career and lifelong ambition to join you in getting Thwack points IT administration. When I took that step, I changed my identity - who I am and who I will become. Sometimes it takes the Earth to make a small change, and sometimes it takes a word to change a life.

Where there is no vision, the people perish

Proverbs 29:18

Where there is no vision businesses wander and people flail.

If you know who you are, it steers where you are going.  But even more than a where, it gives you a why.

Comedian Michael Jr. says he used to think his job was to get laughs from the audience, but one day., he decided, his job was actually to give joy...not just get laughs.  That changed his perspective.

Knowing who we are gives us perspective and gives us a why.

Why we do our jobs... and why we do them well..


'Identity' is something that we create for others to notice us or to identify who am I, but in fact 'Identity' is something that we create for self, it is we who decide when to create a 'Identity' for our own self, I do understand -> few params get attached to us by birth like name, family, dob etc, but then if I really want to, I can create an 'Identity' for myself at any given point of time in my life, it totally depends on ones thought process.

Level 9

Personality is what starts to takes place when you are an infant but identity is achieved slowly. It can formulate in your teen years and change slowly as you reach adulthood. The wiser you become the more your identity changes until you become what you are meant to be. Even then you may have a public identity and a private one.

Level 14

Identity is the name of a murder mystery movie.  It wasn't that bad of a movie.

It is also needed for all that you do in life!  You need an identity to give, receive, go, communicate, etc.  Just think about it.  It is in all that you do and in all that you are.  When you speak, your voice is known to identify you.  When being spoken to, it is for you.

Christmas is coming too.  Gifts are given from you and received by you.  Tags are put on gifts and they identity who the gift is from and who the gift is for.

Identity also reaches further than just one person.  It is also a brand.  What you represent.  Companies have an identity.  Cities have an identity.  Countries have an identity.  Everything is known for something!  That is your identity!


I love Michael Jr. He proves that you don't have to be vulgar to be funny.

Level 20


Level 15

my buddy jeremymayfield​ said:

I know that the identity of my professional self and personal self gets crossed from time to time, but the goal is have an identity that no matter what or where its one that i can stand behind, not in fear but on a firm foundation.

I think that is one of the best goals that a person can possibly have. The ability to be proud of identity, and hold it with integrity is something that I personally strive for daily. In my opinion, it really needs to be a purposeful journey, searching for identity. I think we've all at some point lost sight of this and had periods where our current identity was not aligned with our personal values. I know I went through this fairly recently, and I am happy that I could identify the deltas and close the gaps with some changes.

Going off of Jeremy's quote, one thing that really struck me with my latest self-analysis was that I had created 2 identities: One for work and one for self. This, in my situation, was the root cause of my unhappiness. I'm not saying it's the solution for everyone, but I do wonder how things would end up if we all tried to find a place where we could be ourselves at work. #foodforthought

Also: Thanks adatole I'll have this in my head all day now:

Tony Robbins states, "The past does not equal the past...unless you live there."  I think that identity is, certainly, made up of who we were and what we have done (and, to a certain extent, what has been done to us).  The beautiful thing about this life is that once you figure out that everything is a paradox, changing on a dime becomes easier and life becomes more of an adventure.

Why do I say that everything is a paradox?  Well, because it is...whether we ack it or not.  In the Bible, we read that - and I am paraphrasing somewhat - that the first will be last and the last will be first; that we find our lives when we lose them; that we "[...]touch the sky when [our] knees hit the ground."  I mean, how many times have you wanted one thing and something else showed up?  Think about it.

So, identity to me means - and I agree with miseri - more of who and what I "be" more than what I do (and, yes, I use the word "be" intentionally).  I believe that in order to "have" anything - money, time, freedom, etc. - you must first "be" the kind of person who will then "do" the things that will allow you to "have".  And I realize that I've been wordy enough so I'll leave it at that.

"I yam what I yam and that's ALL what I yam!"   - Popeye

Level 20

You could NEVER go wrong with The Who!


Great start to what I know is going to be a great month.

An immediate thought that came out of reading the first days challenge, is related to me finding out I had a half brother I did not know existed (as did my Father) 3 years ago. We, along with my brother, Father and Mother became close very quickly after our first meeting, with the relationship very much based on our shared identity. The premise that we are who we are based on our life and the experiences within has also very strongly been proven to be based on nature as well.

The similarities in our looks is one thing, but the shared mannerisms, way of speaking and many other traits along has brought much debate and sometimes with our wives consternation as now our sense of humours are spread across three of us.

Level 20


Level 10

Identity isn't what you do for a living, it is how you live. It is the person you are once you remove the stereotypes.

Level 9

I remember hearing someone say, and for the life of me I can't remember who, "Who we are to ourselves and who we are to everyone else are two sides that we all have. Finding a way to allow them to become one, you will find happiness. Some people spend their lives trying to find a way to make this happen, and some people figure it out very young." I have the fortune of being able to have people in my life that I can see have figured this out. They know their identity and are unabashed by it. I admire them for it and hope to grow to become the same way.

Level 15

zackm​ Striving to be ourselves, find happiness and a work life balance is always my goal.  Sometimes I fail, but when i succeed, i feel really good.   My identity I can say though I have done a good job where people respect me for my choices, religion, etc, both at work and home, but socially in social media its vastly more difficult as there are so many trying to tear people down vs lifting them up.   And yes you have succeed in planting that song in my head all day now... 

Level 13

Image result for identity quotes

Protect your identity!!!!!!!!

Level 12

Your identity is more than what you do, it is more than who you are, it's all about whose you are!

Level 12

With this years massive data leaks from multiple companies and organizations, identity is something that is on everyone's mind one way or another. Your identity is more then just who you are, it is how everyone sees you, and not everyone sees you in the same light.

Banks see your identity as how risky you are to loan money to, your ability to pay the loans back and on time.

Renters see your identity as a renter in aspects of paying rent on time and taking care of the place you are renting.

Your friends see your identity as someone they can count on for conversation, and a shoulder to lean on.

The point is, identity is really based on perspective.

Level 7

Think of those you value, those you go to with questions, those who cut to the chase. They likely aren't the gregarious ones or even likeable sometimes. But they know arcane bits of tech knowledge that you need to ask about *as well as* everything to do with the history of Gunsmoke, or 1970s Eastern Conference NBA basketball. Whatever.

They have interests and a deep knowledge of those interests and they don't care if it is popular or trending and never will.

Their identity is one of their own choosing. They are not that person to impress you or others, they are that person because that is who makes them comfortable.

You probably can't build a society of just that personality type, empathy is something they have to work on more than most, but they are damn valuable resources and sounding boards to have in a shop. And a little bit of that "my way" attitude couldn't hurt any of us.

I am just thinking of the archetypes I have worked around and having need of a sage hand to assist with a couple issues recently, that particular identity came to mind as I was reading the original post and the comments. I'm sure we could create a rogue's gallery of the various folks we all need and sometimes need to be to get through the day.

Level 12

Identity: What makes each person unique from all the rest.

Level 21

Our industry needs to be moving away from authentication (specifically passwords) and more towards IDENTITY management; better ways to truly identify a person before granting them access.

Level 16

Image result for gattaca movie

Here is a reason that advanced identity (DNA/biometrics) scares me....


I struggled to find a real identity for myself for a long time. Once I eventually found that something that I really enjoyed I was able to embrace that passion and take off with it. It is who I am now.


m_roberts  wrote:

The similarities in our looks is one thing, but the shared mannerisms, way of speaking and many other traits along has brought much debate and sometimes with our wives consternation as now our sense of humours are spread across three of us.

I met my girlfriend through my brother and his wife. There have been numerous times she has brought up that I share the same mannerisms, etc. as him! "You sound just like your brother"

Level 10

Although I may have multiple personas that manifest depending on situation, I still have my unique Identity which is always me.

Level 14


The multiple facets that make an individual who they are.  Each one of us is a multi-faceted gem.  We choose which facets polish and which ones we are satisfied with.

Level 13

If Identity is something like who we are or who we think we are, then as I look back over my life, my Identity has changed or been fluid depending on what was happening, what I was doing, or what I wanted to do at the time.  I can relate that to my career, well multiple careers.  Information Technology is basically my 4th career.  It isn't what I imagined for myself in high school.  It certainly isn't what I was in my first full time career job.  Likewise, outside work life has changed for me over the years for various reasons.  Stress and the removal of certain stress factors have changed how I have been perceived by others.  Changes in habits, along with changes in lifestyle have also influenced how I am perceived as well as how I look at myself. 

As a result of this, I had to re-evaluate myself a few times over the years to figure out what my current Identity is.  I don't know that it will always stay as it is now.  I don't know that others perceive my Identity the same way I currently do, and I don't know which is more accurate to what my Identity really is.

Level 11

Dealing with Identity has become not only an IT problem, but a societal one.

While we can debate what makes up identity, we all have our own. (What comprises one's identity is a separate contentious and fascinating discussion.)

How we prove that identity to others and keep nefarious parties from impersonating us has become increasingly complex and difficult. Bad actors are trying to steal our identities for their own uses. They care not that they are ruining a person, changing their life, how others view them and likely their sense of themselves in impersonating another as their means to their misdeeds. That makes the crime worse than any old-fashioned theft or robbery.

IT is perceived as standing between the bad guys and everyone else. The race to stay ahead of evildoers is constant. Better passwords, multi-factor authentication, and encryption all continue to be battlefields. Biometrics, perhaps the newest battlefield, have promise and are also scary, as the discussions about TouchID and now FaceID, and familyofcrowes​' illustrate. Yet, as much as we are all able to engineer, every last bit can be defeated by an old fashioned con, more modernly termed social engineering. A good spear phishing or persuasive phone call can bypass every moat, wall, and weapon in our arsenal.

Who'd have thought being a geek would put us on the front lines of the neverending battle between good and evil?

My hope for everyone here is that you are comfortable with your own identities, and that anyone who may try to take or borrow yours fails and nailed for it. May the only phish any of us respond to be a band from Vermont.

Happy Holidays!

Level 9

Some folks have referenced your "online" identity.  My wife and I have been talking with our son about the perils of being "too loose" online and how anything you put out there becomes a reflection of you, even something from the past.  We are trying to instill within him a sense of awareness of how his personal identity can be tied to this online identity, particular when it is time for him to enter the workforce.


I would argue that your identity IS what you do and how you act.

But most often your identity is viewed from an external perspective and is therefore completely reliant on context.

This is currently the undoing of the google methodology -- remember the whole one person, one ID nonsense.

I am one person to my family and friends

I am another to my workmates

I am yet another to the public

I am many other people

Each one of those people has different interests, different needs, maybe some shared motivations etc, but still very different people.

Technology keeps trying to make it one person but fails miserably.

Level 9

I think we are at an interesting time in society.  In regard to "identity" we have two extremes, one where trolls and hackers are masking and hiding their identity online, then other where individuals are publishing ever intricate detail of their lives online.  Given time, I wonder where we will end up as a society in say 10 years time?

Level 9

What is "identity" well there are several aspects that makes up someone identity. The most important one to me is how to treat yourself and others. Your identity is not who you are online but how your treat people on or offline. I was raised to treat people with respect and that to me is what makes ure the most of your identity.

Some of the aspects that makes up your identity is:::::::

How you raise your kids, lead them down the right path. Weather or not that choose the right path is up to them.

Of course there is the online presence of who you are.

How willing you are to help someone.

And the list can go on and on.

This is my opinion of someone identity.

Level 9

Can i be identified by my Identity?

Level 9

I'm a combination of several Identities, Work, Home, School, Online, Parent, and Child.  I try to remain true to my core values and when I'm upset or bothered by something or someone, I try to look at myself and see what it is that I'm doing wrong. 

Level 7

Perhaps it's impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.

Level 8

Your identity defines you. It talks about your uniqueness. Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness.

Level 9

Our identity talks about what we are or rather who we are at that present moment but not what we may be in the future as we can surely lose our identity.

Level 7

Still trying to figure out my true identity, maybe when i discover who I am, I will be free.

What a lovely high bar you've set, adatole

adatoleBeautiful definition & examples.

Level 14

Well said adatole​.

Identity is a complex thing. Our identity is like a diamond, it has many facets. Each facet is part of what helped create and shape it. It can be plain,beautiful, complex, flawed or perfect. To also quote Shakespeare...

What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals.


The statement 'you sound just like your brother' is rarely from a position of being pleased about that fact!

Nature vs Nurture in our case seems to be tipped towards nature and the main reason we get on so well.

About the Author
In my sordid career, I have been an actor, bug exterminator and wild-animal remover (nothing crazy like pumas or wildebeasts. Just skunks and raccoons.), electrician, carpenter, stage-combat instructor, American Sign Language interpreter, and Sunday school teacher. Oh, and I work with computers. Since 1989 (when you got a free copy of Windows 286 on twelve 5¼” floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 1.0) I have worked as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert. Then about 14 years ago I got involved with systems monitoring. I've worked with a wide range of tools: Tivoli, Nagios, Patrol, ZenOss, OpenView, SiteScope, and of course SolarWinds. I've designed solutions for companies that were extremely modest (~10 systems) to those that were mind-bogglingly large (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). During that time, I've had to chance to learn about monitoring all types of systems – routers, switches, load-balancers, and SAN fabric as well as windows, linux, and unix servers running on physical and virtual platforms.