AT&T braces FirstGov for e-gov

New security services being provided to the federal Web portal, FirstGov, will be strong enough to permit secure online transactions between federal agencies and citizens, said officials from AT&T Government Solutions.

AT&T was hired Aug. 14 to beef up security and provide Web hosting services to the government portal as a variety of government agencies prepare to launch a new generation of e-government services. FirstGov is expected to be the "Web host" for the services.

Online transactions with government are a key feature of e-government and are intended to be a part of several e-government initiatives being promoted by the Bush administration.

One of the initiatives — e-authentication — for example, would enable users to log in once using a password or digital certificate, and perform secure transactions with several different agencies. Users are expected to log in through FirstGov.

Other e-government services that would include transactions range from enabling businesses to apply for permits online to helping individuals apply for federal benefits over the Internet.

AT&T is providing firewall and intrusion-detection systems as well as disaster recovery, vulnerability and risk assessments and security planning, the General Services Administration, which operates FirstGov, said in written responses to questions.

GSA is paying AT&T $7.6 million over four years for the services. In March, GSA hired AT&T for $10.5 million to provide search engine services for FirstGov for five years.

AT&T's Web hosting and security services should make FirstGov ready to accommodate the new e-government services, said AT&T spokesman Jim Byrnes.

FirstGov officials declined repeated requests for interviews on the subject.

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