Justice Network gets managed PKI

Pennsylvania Justice Network

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Pennsylvania officials have opted for a managed public-key infrastructure service provided by VeriSign Inc. to give the Integrated Justice Network (JNET) the security and authentication strength it needs to share sensitive information about criminals with 11,000 federal, state and local government members.

The deal will allow JNET to secure data quickly and without the high upfront costs associated with building its own PKI, said Linda Rosenberg, JNET's executive director. It will also keep ongoing costs to a minimum, because the managed PKI is a "pay-as-you-go" service.

Because Pennsylvania agencies operate separately from each other and are responsible for protecting their own data, Rosenberg said the solution chosen would need to have flexibility in order for the information from each agency to be secure in its own right.

The managed PKI allows state and county agencies to download their own PKI certificates from VeriSign.

"We need to guarantee that users [of JNET] are who they say they are, so VeriSign's system provides an ability to audit those users," Rosenberg said. "It also provides for different layers of granularity or user roles, since some agencies have to be more discriminating [about the information they provide] than do others."

The VeriSign PKI is also compatible with the federal PKI bridge, which gives JNET a head start toward future information-sharing among many other local, state and federal agencies — one of the goals of the Homeland Security Department.

JNET already is involved in a national sharing effort with the National Governors Association.

Barry Leffew, vice president of VeriSign's public-sector group, says this need for secure data sharing and the growing need for states to enable the use of digital signatures and government e-business is increasing the demand for PKI-like services.

He expects that the difficulties and high costs many governments have encountered when building their own PKIs will give VeriSign's managed service a clear boost. He anticipates the market for these managed PKI services will grow up to 300 percent annually during the next few years.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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