HSPD-12: Is government's glass half full or half empty?

The recent success of the Census Bureau in setting up an HSPD-12 based identity management system shows the federal government is poised to meet next-generation smart card standards.

The Heartbleed scare that shocked the Internet world in April reinforced the reality that the age of password-based authentication has ended. Shared secrets stored in vulnerable databases are simply not protected by single-factor identification.

The security community has long known that a secure second factor—bound to an assured identity—is the key to defending the IT ramparts from even more sophisticated attacks.  And while the financial industry is resisting the use of multifactor smart cards, the federal government has been focused on smart card technology since issuing Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) almost a decade ago.

HSPD-12 was an unfunded mandate with the ambitious goal to issue “secure and reliable forms of identification for government employees and contractors … including contractor employees.” These credentials were to be used for multifactor logical and physical access to both facilities and information systems.

The HSPD-12 mandate is approaching its 10th anniversary on Aug. 27, 2014, an opportunity to assess the degree to which the directive has been followed. While the White House recognizes the program as a top IT security priority, and congressional attention to the topic promises to grow as the election season gets closer, a truer measure will be an assessment of how widely the technology is being used to secure federal IT systems.

While the initial data, based on statistics published in the White House Cross Agency Priorities  (CAP) report, indicates that the initiative has made significant progress, it also clearly demonstrates that there is a lot of work remaining to be done. 

What’s also clear from the report is that while many HSPD-12 cards have been issued, few are being used for logical access.

More than 30 percent, or nine of the 24 agencies studied, are still at 0 percent for personal identification verification (PIV) network access implementation and another 25 percent are at 10 percent or less. What is less clear is how much the card is contributing to the actual security of IT systems. The report does not show issuance and use for contract employees, and therefore does not measure the total percent of accounts that are secured with multi-factor access controls. This picture, unfortunately, should be considered a “glass half empty.”

However, at a recent GSA-sponsored seminar and vendor expo on the Identity, Credential and Access Management (ICAM) program, the departments of Energy, Agriculture and Health and Human Services described how their agencies are realizing the benefits of smart card authentication, a scenario in which the glass is half full, although the benefits realized by these agencies were not just related to IT security.

The use of digital signatures alone typically saves impressive amounts money in managing official documents, for example. The common denominator in all successful programs was management’s realization that once the cards had been issued, it was foolish to leave their potential capabilities unused.

For example, the Census Bureau has built a complete identity management infrastructure with two-factor access, both logical and physical, for employees as well as contractors. The effort was directed by an HSPD-12 Program Management Office (PMO) that had the authority, skills and resources to lead the agency through the process.

The infrastructure that the PMO constructed manages one-stop provisioning and revocation of all identities, including public customers such as the international news media. It is capable of managing non-PIV credentials from programs like OpenID and non-federal issued credentials such as those associated with members of the Smart Card Alliance.

With standards for use of derived credentials now issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Census Bureau will be able to bring two-factor security to mobile devices of thousands of enumerators who use mobile devices in the field.

The success of the Census Bureau represents just the beginning of smart card potential. Near field communication standards and secure contactless readers are right around the corner. A pilot project is underway that will allow PIV cards to be used in the fare collection systems of several municipal transportation departments, including the Washington, D.C., Metro. The Defense Department identity credential (aka, Common Access Card or CAC) can be used to register in the TSA Precheck Program, which allows access to expedited security screening at many airports, and there is much more to come.

All in all, the results show that the smart card is a technology whose time has come, and the federal government is poised to ride that wave. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.