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Biometric Consortium Conference 2013

Authenticating Who You are Online

September 18, 2013
By Rita Boland

Cyberspace has security problems, and the U.S. government is trying to do something about it. The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is promoting a plan and taking actions to move citizens beyond usernames and passwords to more powerful methods of authentication. In recent years, massive data theft has occurred in the cyber realm. Even strong passwords are vulnerable to hackers.

Identities are difficult to verify online, forcing many government and civilian transactions to occur in person to satisfy security needs. Furthermore, the complexity of having multiple passwords for myriad accounts means that many people abandon using certain Web services instead of going through the process to recover passwords they forget. Trusted identification could provide the foundation for a solution, explained Dr. Michael Garcia, deputy director, NSTIC National Program Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), at the Biometric Consortium Conference.

To illustrate his point, Garcia explained that the U.S. Defense Department’s intrusion rate dropped 46 percent after the organization banned passwords in favor of common access cards with public key infrastructure. Costs, policy and other barriers prevent certain groups from following this model, however. The NSTIC has within it the idea of an identity ecosystem that will improve online trust. Officials believe the marketplace exists for such technology. Industry will lead the way with government serving as a convener, facilitator and catalyst, Garcia said. The private sector must determine how to build an ecosystem in which it can swap out technologies for various reasons.

Do You Control Your Identity?

September 18, 2013
By Rita Boland

 

“We are in an era where biometric data is proliferating,” Dr. Joseph Atick, chairman, Identity Council International, said today at the Biometric Consortium Conference. That expansion is taking place in the civilian world in addition to increases in the military and public safety sectors. “Biometrics in daily life has arrived,” Atick explained.

Societal changes regarding how people view privacy and how they use social media are helping to drive changes in the biometrics field. In fact, social changes are driving a revolution in the industry. Reputation of people is becoming pervasive, indelible and inescapable in large part because of the Internet. Data about individuals can be culled simply through performing a Google search and remains available indefinitely. As such, officials, or others, can link more and more pieces of information to individuals, including pieces not collected through a formal means. Atick used the example of two British citizens who were sent home after arriving in the United States and having their identities verified. They were linked to joking tweets saying they would destroy the United States and dig up Marilyn Monroe.

Social media has many implications with identity management. For one, it makes it dramatically easier to determine social identities. Through various platforms, people’s choices show their dynamic relationships, give context to parts of their lives and offer trust by affiliation. A person who has 1,000 highly respectable LinkedIn contacts, for example, should receive some weighting for trustworthiness from that, Atick said. Social media also allows for social résumés. Individuals can post whatever they want, but other people vet them. Atick explained that the upshot of what is happening in the world is that increasingly identification is being derived from data external to the biometrics enrollment process.

NATO Forwards Biometrics

September 17, 2013
By Rita Boland

NATO is investing time, talent and treasure into advancing biometrics, Col. Bernard Wulfse, Dutch Army, commander, Joint Task Force Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED), explained at the Biometric Consortium Conference. The alliance has named biometrics a critical capability shortfall to address. Key to achieving goals for biometrics is bringing all the partner nations together—not only the few currently supporting the efforts. Methods that proved useful against IEDs have applications in the biometrics realm, and lessons can be applied from the former to the latter.

Current conflicts generate from within states, not between them, so identifying enemies is difficult. More investment in rooting out the bad guys is necessary, Col. Wulfse explained. This anonymity in the physical and cyber realms makes it impossible for traditional forces to deploy their best capabilities. “Asymmetric threats … have rendered our strengths ineffective,” Col. Wulfse said.

Identity management of friend and foe can help mitigate the threats of these types of adversaries and not only in the military context. Other applications include C-IED, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, access control and more. Unlike in times past, biometrics efforts now truly have support from the highest headquarters, the colonel stated.

Despite this support, the basic challenges remain the same. The potential of biometrics for military use is not fully understood. NATO lacks harmonization in guidance, procedures and standards. Capabilities among the various armed forces are unbalanced. There is a lack of knowledge and trust in the biometrics arena, and many of the troops collecting biometric information today will not see the benefits from their work because it often takes years for the data to become a usable resource.

Biometrics: Changing the Game and Facing Challenges

September 17, 2013
By Rita Boland

Biometrics has advanced significantly over the past decade, altering the lives of people across the globe, especially in developing countries. But the field faces many concerns as it looks toward the future.

Ken Gantt, acting deputy director, Office of Biometric Identity Management, outlined the challenges he sees at the Biometric Consortium Conference Tuesday in Tampa, Florida. The first is direction. Members of the biometrics community need to determine where they want to be in 2025. The second challenge is a combination of policy, privacy and perception. “What is right to share and with whom?,” Gantt asked. Third is operations in terms of improving the employment of biometrics. Fourth is technology. “We can’t do what we do without technology,” Gantt says. However, this comes with problems because of resource constraints. Developers have to make technology affordable.

The fifth and final challenge is identity, or rather, the definition of identity. Gantt explained that the term has different meanings for different people. The lack of uniformity presents challenges when groups try to work together. Gantt made several recommendations to resolve the issues he presented. One basic measure calls for a standardization of definitions and vocabulary to decrease confusion. Most of the other solutions revolve around increasing communications within and outside of the biometric community. Sharing ideas, insights and the benefits of adopting biometrics will advance the field internally as well as encouraging its acceptance by the general populace.

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