Defense rolls out pair of PKI apps to users worldwide

The Defense Department has two new applications that speed up the validation of digital signatures for its Common Access Card program.

DOD's Public-Key Infrastructure Program Management Office has chosen Tumbleweed Valicert Validation Authority from Tumbleweed Communications Corp. of Redwood City, Calif., and Real Time Credential Validation Authority from CoreStreet Ltd. of Cambridge, Mass.

Defense will make both apps available globally to millions of Defense users who use their cards to send e-mail, digitally sign documents and access secure systems.

DOD searched for products to speed up the validation process, which currently re- quires users to download more than 30M of data and takes longer than an hour. The PKI office re- viewed products from nine vendors before settling on the Tumbleweed and CoreStreet apps.

CoreStreet cuts the validation time to 65 milliseconds and requires the download of a file no larger than a few hundred bytes, according to DOD officials.

Previously, the slow downloads for the validation process 'cost us tremendously in productivity and drove people to circumvent the security built into our systems,' said Gil Nolte, director of the PKI office at the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The new process is 'so quick that it is transparent to the user, and we're now able to ensure the security and validity of digitally signed communications,' he said.

Public-key infrastructure certifications offer one way to enhance network security, although PKI wasn't always a trusted technology, said Bill Schell, president and CEO of August Schell Enterprises of Rockville, Md. The company has an architecture and engineering contract with DISA's PKI office.

'PKI was really somewhat esoteric for many years,' Schell said. 'Now with the proven success at DISA, it's a more proven technology.'

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