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Current collaborative tools are often not able to profit from existing systems for user management. It is therefore necessary for collaborative systems to administrate their users using their own solutions, which may not be adequate in terms of scalability or security. Many users may also experience problems working with authentication credentials (e.g. digital certificates) employed by collaborative systems. In this paper, we propose a general framework to provide easy-to-use yet secure access to collaborative systems, which offers a general middleware layer to accommodate various types of collaborative tools. The framework utilizes the emerging model of federations, which allows to provide a user-friendly means of logging in to a collaborative system as well as a solid basis for specifying access control policies. The framework handles all security aspects in a transparent way without requiring the users to perform complicated tasks. Using user attributes maintained in the federation, it is also possible to implement efficient and dynamic group management of the collaborating users.