Authentication said key to cybersecurity

A top DHS cybersecurity adviser says authentication, metrics key to cybersecurity

The ability to authenticate computer users, devices and processes is a major part of the Homeland Security Department's emerging vision for improved computer security, a top cybersecurity official said today.

The department wants an open, standards-based cyber “ecosystem” that is securely designed, said Bruce McConnell, cybersecurity counselor to Philip Reitinger, DHS’ principal cybersecurity official.

During a breakfast discussion in Washington held by TechAmerica, McConnell said that cyber ecosystem must be supported by metrics that can help decision-makers spend their budgets more effectively.

Meanwhile, McConnell also said strong authentication is also important because it will reduce the “noise” that makes enforcing cybersecurity difficult.

In an interview after the event, McConnell added, "Better authentication reduces the complexity of the intrusion-detection problem because when legitimate entities, devices and processes are authenticated, then the universe of those that are malicious is more obvious.”

He also said the White House is developing an overall program for authentication with DHS' help.

McConnell said a digital authentication system needs to be:

  • Voluntary, but some privileges could be denied for not using it, however, no one should be required to use it.
  • Easy to use.
  • Able to support people’s multiple roles and avatars in cyberspace.
  • Adhere to the long-standing, worldwide list of fair information practices that deal with privacy.
  • Able to provide anonymity for certain actions in cyberspace that relate to areas such as free speech and political speech.

Meanwhile, the results of the Obama administration’s cybersecurity policy review, released in May, recommended the near-term development of a cybersecurity-based identity management strategy that effectively deals with privacy and civil liberties.

“We cannot improve cybersecurity without improving authentication, and identity management is not just about authenticating people. Authentication mechanisms also can help ensure that online transactions only involve trustworthy data, hardware, and software for networks and devices,” the report states.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 E. Farquhar DC

Yes, authenticated identification will help. Now how does he plan on doing it? Researchers in Europe are experimenting with measuring the sound of your voice - coming out of your ear. You see, your voice echos around in your skull, and everyone's skull and the internals are different, so the sounds will be different. Short of the infamous implanted RFID chip, I don't see a system that will work, especially with WiMax/Ubiquitous Broadband. How else will you authenticate when you are walking across death valley and power up your netbook to logon to 4G? That is what they've promised, broadband everywhere, available to everyone. I can't wait.

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 NUNZIO BAGLIERE SYRACUSE N.Y

OUR FIRST AMENDMENT PREVAILS IN OUR COUNTRY OF THE UNITED STATES BUT NOT IN FOREIGN LAND AS CYBER SPACE GETS BIGGER MORE VOICES WILL BE TUNED IN BY MANY USERS AS DEMOCRACY PLAYS A PART ON THE INTERNET FROM NUNZIO BAGLIERE OF SYRACUSE N.Y

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