Digital signature deal targets students
- By Greg Langlois
- Nov 21, 2000
The General Services Administration's ACES site
Four federal agencies have tapped VeriSign Inc. and AT&T to support
the use of digital certificates by students who make transactions online
with the government.
Under a task order awarded through the General Services
Administration's Access Certificates for Electronic Services (ACES) contract,
VeriSign will provide public-key infrastructure consulting and application
support for several student-related services available online.
The PKI-enabled services include the Education Department's Free Application
for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), as well as transactions
with the U.S. Postal Service and the departments of Veterans Affairs and
Students currently must use a personal identification number when filling
out FAFSA forms at the Education Department's Web site, but a PIN can be
easily forgotten, especially if as is the case with FAFSA it's typically
used only once a year, said Andy Boots, champion for information security
and privacy at the department's Office of Student Financial Assistance Programs.
Digital certificates issued according to ACES guidelines will enable
students to fill out FAFSA forms without needing to keep track of PINs and
will make conducting business with a variety of federal agencies easier,
"Our vision is enabling students to do business with the federal government,"
Education officials expect the use of digital certificates to grow as
the public becomes more familiar with PKI and its benefits, and Boots said
this task order will keep the agency ahead of the curve.
FAFSA forms for the 2001-02 academic year will go online in January,
and they may be able to accept digital certificates at that time, he said.
If not, they should be ready by spring, he said.
Other online services important to students that will be equipped to
handle digital certificates include USPS' change-of-address form and the
VA's Web Automated Verification of Enrollment system, which students receiving
VA education funding use to let the agency know they're still taking classes.
Students can find these services on the Access
America for Students Web site (www.students.gov).
VeriSign will validate students' digital certificates in real time using
ACES' Certificate Arbitration Module, which was developed by AT&T. VeriSign
also will issue the certificates, provide renewal and revocation services,
and support overall PKI implementation.
AT&T is one of three prime
contract-holders under ACES, which GSA launched to provide the technology
and services needed for agencies to develop PKI.