Preventing System Intrusion Before it Happens

Too often, government takes an after-the-fact approach to network security--confronting issues after a breach takes place. But by offering effective identification management solutions, VARs can help agencies to detect malicious intruders before they ever get inside.

During a panel discussion at an identity management conference hosted by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), Bill Crowell, security consultant and member of the Markle Foundation Task Force on National Security, described how he drove up to the hotel where the event took place with two Propane tanks sitting in plain view and obviously no one took much notice. "[My car] is still parked out front," he said. "For all the cameras, there aren't that many watching."

Historically, the government's handling of terrorism threats has often been similar: take notice only after an incident occurs. Crowell is advocating that needs to change. "We have to spend time preventing terrorism rather than a continuing to document effects," Crowell said. "That can only come by creating a trusted information network. You better know who you are giving information to." With that in mind, the Bush Administration passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which called for proper identification management in the creation of a decentralized, distributed and coordinated information-sharing environment.

But there is still a lot of work to be done. One challenge is the lack of a unified plan, which is difficult to achieve in government when all of the different agencies carry different standards and requirements. "[People] look within silos and focus only on [their] own issues," said Frances Zelazny, director of corporate communications at Minnetonka, Minn.-based biometrics manufacturer Identix Incorporated. "It all needs to tie back together."

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For true identification management, Zelazny said, agencies need to take a building block approach that incorporates registration and identification proofing, credentialing, authentication, regulation tracking and intruder detection. "Identification management needs core subsystems," Zelazny said, with the biometric data collection associated with ID proofing being perhaps the most crucial. "If you get that wrong, the whole system is at risk."