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GCN : January 2013
16 GCN JANUARY 2013 • GCN.COM More than $9 million in grants have been awarded to five inno- vative pilot programs for man- aging online identity under the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. The pilots, being conducted by government agencies, private companies and academic insti- tutes, are a step toward the White House's goal of creating a wide- spread digital identity ecosystem that will make online transac- tions more secure and ensure personal privacy. "The last couple of months we have transitioned from a start-up program and have achieved key milestones," said Jeremy Grant, head of the NSTIC National Pro- gram Office, which is led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The Obama administration in 2011 released its National Strate- gy for Trusted Identities in Cyber- space, a framework for a system of voluntary, interoperable cre- dentials that could be accepted by both government and businesses for online transactions. The goals are to enable more economic and government activity on the Inter- net while ensuring consumer pri- vacy and security. The program has established an industry-led steering group with 1,100 individuals from 450 companies and organizations. The first round of one- and two- year pilot grants is intended to help almost-ready identity man- agement schemes and technolo- gies make the transition to real- world deployment. "What we are trying to do is catalyze the marketplace," said Grant. Although technologies for strong authentication already are in use, the challenge with the growth of the Internet has been to make them scale for broad adoption. The user ID and pass- word combination widely used today rapidly becomes burden- some both for users and admin- istrators when strong passwords are required across multiple ac- counts. At the same time, tokens and digital certificates are expen- sive when used for one-off appli- cations and complex to manage when used for multiple applica- tions. Consequently, NSTIC wants to develop an environment capable of leveraging the advantages of multiple interoperable schemes, making them affordable and secure for agencies as well as businesses. To accomplish this, four main hurdles to widespread adoption of strong digital au- thentication must be overcome, according to Grant, including obstacles to privacy, usability, in- teroperability and liability or risk. NSTIC is a balancing act be- tween public- and private sector- initiatives. Although government and the national economy stand to benefit from strong and scal- able online identity verification, stakeholders agree that if govern- ment tries to run the show, it will fail. "The role of government is to spur development of these things," through funding and a favorable regulatory climate, said Phillip Soloweszyk, CTO of Dell's public sector group. The grant programs are a step in this direc- tion. "Instead of development coming in a silo, we see govern- ment and industry working to- gether." The grants, which range from about $1.6 million to $2 million each, are an affordable and ef- fective way to spur development, Soloweszyk said. 5 pilots will focus on di erent aspects of an interoperable ID system that could be tapped for widespread use by government and industry TECHNOLOGIES FOR TRUSTED IDENTITIES PUT TO THE TEST "What we are trying to do is catalyze the marketplace." --- JEREMY GRANT, HEAD OF NIST'S NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR TRUSTED IDENTITIES IN CYBERSPACE