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5 win government grants to help 'get rid of passwords'

Ellen Messmer | Sept. 21, 2012
A federal initiative called the "National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace" has been encouraging the high-tech industry to work with government to find alternatives to simple passwords in order to foster more secure online transactions. The NSTIC program has been promising to fund $10 million in government grants for pilot projects to showcase innovative approaches, and today the winners were finally announced.

University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID) (Mich.): $1,840,263.

UCAID, known publicly as Internet2, intends to build a consistent and robust privacy infrastructure through common attributes; user-effective privacy managers; anonymous credentials; and Internet2's InCommon Identity Federation service; and to encourage the use of multifactor authentication and other technologies. Internet2's partners include the Carnegie Mellon and Brown University computer science departments, University of Texas, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Utah. The intent is for the research and education community to create tools to help individuals preserve privacy and a scalable privacy infrastructure that can serve a broader community, and add value to the nation's identity ecosystem.

James Sheire, senior adviser at NSTIC, appeared earlier this week at the Biometric Consortium Conference in Tampa, Fla., to talk about the NSTIC program, and he noted that announcement about the long-anticipated pilot project awards was imminent.

"The private sector will lead the effort," said Sheire. The idea is to be able to carry out with confidence many kinds of high-value and sensitive transaction, such as signing an auto loan or a mortgage online in the future using digital credentials, he said. He added today there are too many concerns about "liability issues."

Sheire acknowledged the NSTIC program has taken quite a while to gain momentum, but the goal is not to have the government dictate practices and to let industry take the lead.



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