Government moves toward standards for unified security

SAN FRANCISCO'Agencies are slowly developing standards and common practices for integrating security'both for physical and information needs'across agencies.

'We are going to end the proliferation of stovepipes,' said Judith Spencer, chairwoman of the Federal ID Credentialing Committee at the General Services Administration.

And smart cards will play a chief role said Keith T. Hughes, director of the Interagency Security Committee, which is helping to tie together physical and logical security.

'In the future, all federal buildings are going to have to build in an infrastructure for smart cards,' said Hughes, a member of the Homeland Security Department's Federal Protective Service.

Spencer and Hughes spoke yesterday at the RSA Security Conference.

The ID Credentialing Committee's goal is to create a set of criteria that will support a common federal credential. Each agency will remain responsible for issuing its own credentials and establishing access policies.

'We will get the infrastructure in place,' Spencer said. 'It will be up to the agencies to determine how far they take the infrastructure.'

The committee builds on the efforts to establish a Federal Bridge Certificate Authority, which lets agencies authenticate digital certificates issued by other agencies. The Federal Bridge will be an element in the common federal ID. Eight working groups have been established to drive interoperability standards for cards.

The government created the Interagency Security Committee in the wake of the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. In 2003, the committee moved from the General Services Administration to the Homeland Security Department.

The committee's former home in GSA indicates its emphasis on physical security. GSA is the government's landlord and maintains thousands of buildings across the country.

Hughes said it would be three to five years before standard requirements for physical infrastructure for smart cards would be included in all building plans. But he said government buildings already are being designed and built with these security features. Both GSA and the Bureau of Land Management have initiated smart-card programs that incorporate the cards for both physical and information security, he noted.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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