Skip Links

Feedback on The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

Ambitious effort provides a foundation for next generation identity management

By joltsik on Fri, 09/03/10 - 3:11pm.

Anyone remotely interested in identity management should definitely download a copy of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) document. It can be found at this link: http://www.nstic.ideascale.com/.

A a very high level, the strategy calls for the formation of a standards-based interoperable identity ecosystem to establish trusted relationships between users, organizations, devices, and network services. The proposed identity ecosystem is composed of 3 layers: An execution layer for conducting transactions, a management layer for identity policy management and enforcement, and a governance layer for that establishes and oversees the rules over the entire ecosystem.

There is way more detail that is far beyond this blog but suffice it to say the document is well thought out and pretty comprehensive in terms of its vision. This is exactly the kind of identity future we need to make cloud computing a reality. Kudos to Federal Cyber coordinator Howard Schmidt and his staff for kicking this off.

I will post my feedback on the official website, but a few of my suggestions are as follows:

1. Build on top of existing standards. The feds should rally those working on things like Project Higgins, Shibboleth, Liberty, Web Services, Microsoft Geneva, OpenID, etc. Getting all these folks marching in the same direction early will be critical.

2. Get the enterprise IAM vendors on board. No one has more to gain -- or lose -- than identity leaders like CA, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, and Oracle. Their participation will help rally the private sector.

3. Encourage the development of PKI services. PKI is an enabling technology for an identity ecosystem but most organizations eschew PKI as too complex. The solution may be PKI as a cloud service that provides PKI trust without the on-site complexity. This is why Symantec bought the assets of Verisign. The Feds should push Symantec and others to embed certificates in more places, applications, and devices.

There will be lots of other needs as well. The document recommends identity and trust up and down the technology stack but it doesn't talk about the expense or complexity of implementing more global use of IPSEC, BGPSEC, and DNSSEC. There is also the need for rapid maturity in encryption, key management, and certificate management. Good news for RSA, PGP, nCipher (Thales), IBM, HP, Venafi, and others.

The key to me is building a federated, plug-and-play, distributed identity ecosystem that doesn't rely on any central authority or massive identity repository. This is an ambitious goal but one that can be achieved -- over time -- if the Feds get the right players on board and push everyone in the same direction.