SSA launches public-key infrastructure pilot

The Social Security Administration this week selected Digital Signature Trust Co. to design and manage a digital signature pilot project aimed at testing ways for employers to file wage reports online.

The Internet pilot of the Annual Wage Report (AWR) system, through which employers file annual W-2 and W-3 forms to the SSA, will run from Jan. 31 through March 31, 2000. Up to 100 employers will participate in the program, which will test the ease of using the technology and also the level of user acceptance of Internet-based filing, according to the agency.

SSA will test two electronic filing methods, allowing employers to file their reports by secure e-mail or through a secure portion of the agency's World Wide Web site. The public-key infrastructure established by Digital Signature Trust will let employers use their digital certificates to authenticate their identity and protect sensitive information.

Employers will use e-mail certificates to "sign" their messages, verify their identity and to encrypt the message itself. Employers also will be able to use their certificates to verify their authorization to access a secure portion of the SSA Web site, where they will then upload the wage report information to the AWR server.

SSA also plans to use the pilot to determine whether it would be appropriate to use the General Services Administration Access Certificates for Electronic Services contract. ACES, under development at GSA for more than two years, is intended to provide a vehicle for PKI technology and services that can be used across all agencies in the federal government.

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