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Liberty Alliance pushes authentication standard

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The Liberty Alliance Project has launched a program designed to develop open specifications to allow different strong authentication products to interoperate more easily. Liberty’s new Strong Authentication Expert Group has been created to speed the worldwide deployment of more secure log-in technologies. It aims to create an ID-SAFE (Identity Strong Authentication Framework) standard that will make it easier to mix and match strong authentication products such hardware and software tokens, smart cards, SMS-based systems and biometrics.

Work on the initiatives comes a month after the US Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) issued new guidance for banks on online authentication, which advised that passwords alone are becoming insufficient in protecting a consumer's bank account. The new guidance calls on banks to improve their authentication mechanisms by the end of 2006, though it gave no particular direction on what technology financial institutions might decide to use.

"The lack of strong authentication in the online space is demonstrably one of the most significant causes of identity theft,” said Michael Barrett, co-chair of the Liberty Alliance Identity Theft Prevention Group, and VP of security strategy at American Express. "The recent FFIEC guidance on strong authentication will likely change how organizations manage online identity threats, but initiatives for addressing these issues need to be coordinated via agreed industry standards."

Liberty is modeling the ID-SAFE technical development process on identity specifications for federated identity management and Web services. The group expects to release the first version of ID-SAFE specifications sometime next year.

In related news, UK bank Lloyds TSB announced that it gone live with a trial of two-factor authentication using technology from Cryptomathic. The token-based technology, which generates a new password every 30 seconds, will be tested by 30,000 internet banking customers at Lloyds TSB. ®

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