Access granted: NIH opens doors to medical resources

Users with industry-standard online identity credentials can now access secure Web applications

Government officials are interested in more than just streamlining their own employees' access to agencies' online resources through single-sign-on technologies. They also want to make it easier for people to access public services and interact with the government online.

In March, the National Institutes of Health became the first government agency to accept two types of industry-standard online identity credentials that people can get for free and use to log in once and then access multiple secure Web applications, such as customized NIH library searches, conference registration and medical research wikis.

The two types of online credentials are named OpenID and Information Card. A growing number of companies allow their customers and users to create their own credentials using the two standards.

However, NIH only accepts OpenID and Information Card credentials managed by Google, PayPal and Equifax, the first three providers certified to participate in the Open Identity Exchange. OIX is a so-called trust framework, which is a way for one site to trust the identity, security and privacy assurances from another site acting on behalf of a user.

OIX is important to the NIH pilot project because it meets the requirements spelled out by the Trust Framework Provider Adoption Process established by the General Services Administration. Verizon is undergoing the OIX certification process, and it expects to complete it shortly.

“As we roll out progressively stronger levels of certification, this will empower U.S. citizens to access and manage their tax records, Social Security records, veterans' benefits, and many other government services online,” said Drummond Reed, executive director of the Information Card Foundation and acting executive director of OIX.

OIX is also developing trust frameworks for state and local governments.

About the Author

John Zyskowski is a senior editor of Federal Computer Week. Follow him on Twitter: @ZyskowskiWriter.

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