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How The NSTIC Is Planning To Improve Online Security And Privacy

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

While we often accuse our government and security agencies of turning a blind eye to cyber security issues, the truth is that the government is working on several initiatives to improve the online security landscape. These types of security projects are usually driven by National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) which was launched by the Obama administration in 2011 to address the security and privacy challenges associated with the internet. The NSTIC envisions an online environment where people and organizations are able to identify and authenticate each other through digital certificates and conduct transactions in a much more secure, private and convenient way. Although the NSTIC is managed by Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), it also seeks active collaboration from private organizations, advocacy groups and other government agencies.

In order to fulfill its promise of improving the overall online security, NSTIC approves and funds new security initiatives from time to time. In the last three years, the agency has granted millions of dollars in funds to 12 different pilot projects (two in 2011, five in 2012 and another five in 2013). The projects bring together security experts from multiple (often competing) organizations with the aim of defining and implementing security frameworks that would meet the challenges of the future.

In its latest round of funding (September 2014), NSTIC green lit three new pilot projects:

1) The GSMA Project – GSMA (GSM Association) is the umbrella body that unites over 800 mobile operators from 220 different countries. Under this initiative, GSMA will test the feasibility of using mobile devices for identity verification and access management. The association has partnered with four major American mobile operators to push forward the initiative and has received $821,948 as funding for the project. The initiative will focus on creating an easy to use mobile identity solution for consumers that can easily be validated by merchants and organizations.

2) The Confyrm Project – This security initiative would be driven by Confyrm which is a San Francisco based company offering identity protection solutions. The company will receive $1.235 million as funding to demonstrate a security solution that will minimize or eliminate the data and financial loss arising out of account thefts and the use of fake accounts. The solution would work on the “shared signals” security model that can prevent the use of fake or stolen credentials through early warning and notification system. The overall emphasis of the project would be on protecting consumer’s privacy and improving trust among individuals and organizations while using online payment solutions.

3) The MorphoTrust Project – This initiative would be driven by MorphoTrust in collaboration with North Carolina’s Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Departments of Transportation (DOT). The project will demonstrate how state issued identity credentials (such as a driver’s license) can be used for online citizen services. Under this initiative, MorphoTrust will receive a funding of $736,185 and create a digital credential of everyone who applies to North Carolina’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) program. The goal of the project is to reduce overall costs and deliver the benefits to the applicants a lot faster.

As you can see from the above paragraphs, the US Government is doing its best to counter the cyber security threats. While not all of the above initiatives would see the light of the day, some of them definitely have the potential of improving the online security and privacy landscape dramatically.

January 1, 2015

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