Policy would secure users, transactions

E-Authentication Initiative

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The federal CIO Council this month approved a proposal to create a single policy that all agencies would use to authenticate electronic messages, documents and users themselves.

With the growth of e-government, "there is renewed interest from our upper-level management" in authentication, said Judy Spencer, chairwoman of the Federal Public-Key Infrastructure Steering Committee. "We have to develop this common policy framework that reaches across these different areas, and then below that, we need to give agencies the component pieces" to fit into their applications and infrastructure.

Authentication is the process of verifying the identity of a sender of an electronic message or transaction.

The new policy will include the work on the certificate policy established by the PKI Steering Committee, the draft authentication policy that the Smart Card Project Managers Group is developing and the authentication levels that the General Services Administration is working on in its e-Authentication e-government initiative, Spencer said.

The single policy should make it easier for agencies to incorporate e-authentication into their systems, said Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute, a security education and research organization. "It's a good thing because one of the two extreme costs of certificates is the development of a common policy," he said. "Having [the Office of Management and Budget] and others creating one [policy] eliminates a lot of the upfront cost."

The single policy, said Marty Wagner, associate administrator for GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy, "will save agencies time and effort in implementing e-government."

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