White House Preparing National Online ID Plan

(InformationWeek) – The Obama administration is set to propose a new system for authenticating people, organizations and infrastructure on the Web. The online authentication and identity management system would be targeted at the transactional level — for example, when someone logs into their banking website or completes an online e-commerce purchase.

Making such a system effective, however, will require creating an “identity ecosystem,” backed by extensive public/private cooperation, said White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt, delivering the opening keynote speech at the Symantec Government Symposium 2010 in Washington on Tuesday.

“This strategy cannot exist in isolation,” he said. “It’s going to take all of us working together.” Furthermore, “we should not have to dramatically change the way we do business — this should be a natural path forward,” he said.That path forward will hinge on a new draft of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, due to be released Friday for the first time to the public, for a three-week comment period. Formerly known as the National Strategy for Secure Online Transactions, the report offers specific strategy and implementation recommendations, and may also recommend more sweeping policy and privacy changes.

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The report builds on the Obama-commissioned Cyberspace Policy Review, which analyzed the government’s information and communications infrastructure defensive capabilities. One of the report’s recommendations was to “build a cybersecurity-based identity management vision and strategy that addresses privacy and civil liberties interests, leveraging privacy-enhancing technologies for the nation.”

Simply issuing a Web-friendly biometric identification card to everyone in the country, of course, wouldn’t necessarily make anyone or anything more secure, including online transactions. As the report also notes, to be effective, security tools and technology must be complemented by education. “There is always a necessity to do awareness and education of the end user,” said Schmidt. “But you’re not trying to teach the end user how to be a security expert.”

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