The Clinton administration unveiled a tool kit Tuesday designed to
help agencies implement a directive to provide more of their services
over the Internet without sacrificing security or privacy.
On Tuesday, the administration released "Access
With Trust," a comprehensive booklet detailing how the
federal government can promote and use "public key
infrastructure" (PKI) systems to protect electronic interaction
both internally and externally. A PKI is a sophisticated encryption
system using digital signatures that assures electronic information is
protected while being entered, during transit and when stored in a
Vice President Al Gore's Access
America manifesto instructed agencies to go digital by increasing
citizen and business access to government services via the Internet.
Some federal officials have expressed concerns about security and
privacy issues raised by the effort to move federal services online.
"Access with Trust" is designed to show citizens and
government officials that PKI can work in government, according to
Andrew Boots, a privacy and security expert at the National
Partnership for Reinventing Government.
The report describes 26 agency efforts to develop PKI systems. The
Commerce Department's Patent and Trademark Office, for example, has
been working to use digital signature technology to improve its
Electronic Patent Application Filing System. The Defense Department's
Defense Information Systems Agency will use a PKI to ease the
coordination of travel.
Richard Guida, chairman of the Federal Public Key Infrastructure
Steering Committee, said he hopes senior executives will read the
guide and decide that PKI is the way to solve their problems.
Guida conceded, however, that the PKI "gestation period"
is continuing. "PKI is never going to gel until you apply a
stimulus to it," he said. "You have to exercise the muscle
in order to make it grow stronger."