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FCW : May 15, 2015
A federal agency’s website is on the front lines of delivering services to the public. Indeed, a majority of Americans now go online to seek government services. A few years ago, the Pew Research Center estimated that 82 percent of U.S. Internet users search for information or complete a transaction on a government website, and a new Pew survey found that 40 percent do so via smartphones. Unfortunately, individuals who want to access govern- ment applications and services generally must create a user- name and password for each agency site they visit. And agencies maintain their own identity management systems to authenticate users. Security suffers as well; weak and stolen passwords rank among the top ways an online system can be compromised. In response, the federal government has been moving toward an identity management approach that will let people use the same credential to conduct business with multiple agencies, thereby creating a common mechanism for transmitting identity information and introducing stron- ger authentication. But much work remains to be done. A key consideration is building a system that affords robust security but is easy to use. Onerous security measures invite users to pursue workarounds, which neutralizes the protections. “The usability of secure identity solutions is something that the market has been struggling to improve for years,” said Jeremy Grant, senior executive adviser for identity management at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “We’ve had no problem developing ‘secure’ identity technologies, but if people don’t use them, then they really don’t offer much security.” Why it matters Since the passage of the E-Government Act of 2002, myriad federal services have emerged online. A 2014 Government Accountability Office report noted that agencies operate more than 11,000 websites. As more people make the Web The quest for a single government login BY JOHN MOORE Identity management is central to efforts to make a wide range of IT activities secure, but streamlining the process is essential 24 May 15, 2015 FCW.COM ExecTe c h How Connect.gov works Under Connect.gov, government-approved partners issue digital credentials to individuals who want secure access to online government services without creating separate logins for every agency. Source: Connect.gov 1. Customer seeks access to an online government application When identification is needed to access an application, Connect.gov will appear as an option. 2. Customer selects a sign-in partner The customer chooses from a list of approved sign-in partners and is directed to the partner ’s website to log into an existing account or register for one. 0515fcw_024-026.indd 24 4/22/15 9:05 AM
April 30, 2015
May 30, 2015