Policy briefs

Coalition builds bio-alert system

A coalition of private-sector, nonprofit and research organizations in Indiana has launched a technology model for the early detection of intentionally released pathogens and other disease outbreaks. Information would be relayed through a secure Web site (www.biosentinel.net) to appropriate national, state and local public health and emergency management agencies, municipal governments, local emergency rooms, clinics and doctor's offices on a subscription basis.

Todd Bracken, chief executive officer of Bracken Foster and Associates LLC, an Indianapolis-based management group that oversees the process, said the patent-pending BioSentinel product would provide notification — via e-mail, pagers or telephone — of a possible outbreak much earlier than when diseases are currently detected and reported. Quicker notification means that authorities can take faster action to deal with a possible outbreak or conduct a better investigation, he said.

The technology tracks sales of certain over-the-counter medications at major pharmacy and grocery chains and other discounters.

PKI bridge opens

The General Services Administration held a signing ceremony Sept. 18 for the first government agencies to be cross-certified with the Federal Bridge Certification Authority, which makes it easier for agency users to exchange electronic documents securely.

The public-key infrastructure bridge links agencies' certificate authorities, the services that generate and manage digital certificates to authenticate users and secure their transactions. A partnership between the Federal PKI Steering Committee and the Federal PKI Policy Authority, the bridge is a collection of hardware, software and policies that enable federal agencies and other entities to validate digital signatures issued by participating certificate authorities.

Powered by Entrust Inc.'s PKI technology, the bridge allows users at the Defense Department, the Agriculture Department's National Finance Center, NASA, the Treasury Department and other government agencies to securely share information.

Other agencies and governments plan to tie into the federal bridge, including the Canadian government, the state of Illinois and the U.S. State Department, according to Judith Spencer, chairwoman of the Federal PKI Steering Committee.

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