SET-ASIDES

NSF group settles on privacy package

After almost a year of collaboration, researchers with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure program have developed a plan to eliminate clear-text passwords for the users of their systems.

The National Computational Science Alliance and the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure— the two partnerships that make up the infrastructure program— are making Kerberos, an authentication and privacy package, available to partners and users of data at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

Kerberos, originally developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, provides a means of protecting passwords and other data from third-party eavesdropping on a network between two hosts. Normally, most users connect to a remote host by typing in a password and sending characters over the network to the host. However, it is easy for a third party who has access to the network to intercept these characters. Kerberos is designed to authenticate a user without sending a user's password over the network.

The partnerships, funded by NSF, are designed to prototype the advanced computational infrastructure for the 21st century. Between the two groups, more than 80 academic institutions are working with the lead computing centers of each partnership. All these users will be employing Kerberos for security when communicating with member institutions.

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NSF plans grants

The National Science Foundation plans to distribute

$1 million later this year to fund research in its "digital government" program. NSF is promoting development of technologies for disseminating, retrieving and analyzing information, electronic commerce, delivering government services and related applications.

At least one federal agency must be part of any research team that receives a grant, although partners can come from academia, research labs, state or local governments, foundations and private industry. More grants are planned for fiscal 1999, depending on funding from Congress. For more information, see www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/getpub?nsf98121.

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