In Depth

Feds Invest Nearly $4M To Secure Digital Identities

In today’s cybercrime-ridden online environment, cybersecurity has skyrocketed to the top agendas of numerous government agencies.

In the latest U.S. initiative to improve the security surrounding highly sensitive data, the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) announced earlier this week it has funded $3.7 million to three new pilot programs aimed at strengthening initiatives to safeguard the online data that makes up our digital identities.

The separate pilot programs are tasked with creating privacy-enhancing technologies related to an array of identity solutions, including the prevention of tax refund theft, improving medical information security and enhancing online data storage, ZDNet reported on Monday (Sept. 21).

Since being established by the Obama Administration back in 2011, the NSTIC has distributed more than $34 million to a total of 15 pilot programs, all aimed at breaking down barriers to an Identity Ecosystem, which it defines as “an online environment where individuals and organizations are able to trust each other because they follow agreed upon standards to obtain and authenticate their digital identities—and the digital identities of devices.”

“This year’s additions are developing and deploying awesome, innovative solutions to address the toughest identity conundrums associated with everyday transactions,” Mike Garcia, deputy director of NSTIC, wrote in a statement. The three grant awardees were selected because of their ability to address specific, critical gaps present in the identity marketplace, Garcia added.

The companies that received grants from NSTIC are as follows:

  • MorphoTrust USA (Billerica, Mass.: $1,005,168) – Pilot project will focus on curbing the theft of personal state tax refunds by creating secure electronic IDs to secure the online driver license registration process, which includes enrollment, verification through biometric identification, authentication and validation, and issuance.
  • HealthIDx (Alexandria, Va.: $813,922) – Pilot project will aim to deliver a “triple blind” technology to enhance the security of medical patient identities and information.
  • Galois, Inc. (Portland, Ore.: $ 1,856,778) – Pilot project will built out an online personal identity storage system based on biometric authentication, which will also feature just-in-time transit ticketing on mobile devices and an integration to bring the secure system to an Internet of Things-enabled smart home.

“The way we represent ourselves online is fundamental to nearly everything we do,” Garcia told The Hill earlier this week. “We need more — and better — tools to make online identity easier and more secure, and to advance the commercial deployment of privacy-enhancing technologies.”

In another federal effort to defend against the ever-increasing threat of cybercrime, Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, released a new vision statement for the military command earlier this month.

The announcement emphasized the need for Cyber Command and its subordinate units to integrate its cyber defense operations into both national security and military efforts.

“Our challenge is to protect the things we value — freedom, liberty, prosperity, intellectual property and personal information — without hindering the free flow of information that fosters growth and intellectual dynamism,” Rogers wrote in the document titled “Beyond the Build: Delivering Outcomes Through Cyberspace.”

Cyber Command, which is charged as the cybersecurity defense of the Department of Defense (DoD), protects the department’s networks, systems and information, as well as supports the military and contingency operations to protect the U.S. from cyber attacks.

The statement identified cyberspace as a new “warfighting domain,” just like the land, air, sea and space are realms in which the country must have the necessary defenses. The vision statement calls for “new ways of defending, fighting and partnering against learning adversaries in the contested cyber domain,” which will require the need to operationalize cyberspace, the DoD reported.

For more on the digital identity ecosystem, click here to take a look at our Identity Tracker, which helps identify the issues and trends that arise around the digital identity ecosystem.

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