Census counts on self-service

To give its headquarters staff self-service password capabilities, the Census Bureau last year bought 10,000 licenses for Courion Corp.'s PasswordCourier and ProfileBuilder software.

"We're looking to reduce the number of hours spent at the help desk to reset customers' passwords," said Roger Rhoads, the chief of the bureau's network and technical services branch.

"We have more platforms and passwords now, so we have to find a way," said Dale Reed, branch chief of the information technology client support office. "This software brings us ease of use, increased productivity from the help desk and increased security."

The Census Bureau recently progressed from the pilot program to the production rollout of Courion's software, running it on Unix, Microsoft Corp. Windows NT and Novell Inc. systems. The benefits are immediate. "It used to take an average of five to six minutes to reset a password. Now it takes less than one minute," said Joe Young, a Census Bureau computer specialist.

"Plus, it uses the resources of one person — the customer — not the customer and the help desk analyst," Rhoads added.

To begin using the Courion system, a user must first work in ProfileBuilder to build his or her individual profile. A profile includes the answers to a series of questions that only the user would know, such as mother's maiden name, hospital of birth or the color of the user's living room.

Once ProfileBuilder contains all the data used to authenticate the user, a screen icon linked to the PasswordCourier software is placed on the user's computer. If the user forgets his password, he can click on the icon and is then led through a series of challenge/response questions in PasswordCourier that validates him and allows him to reset his password.

Courion's software provides security for the profiles on the back-end server through the use of encryption and hashing. "Data stored in a hashed or encrypted format reduces the likelihood of identity theft," said Tom Rose, Courion's vice president of marketing.

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