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Liberty Alliance to Speed Wide-Scale Adoption of Strong Authentication Solutions

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Liberty Alliance to Speed Wide-Scale Adoption of Strong Authentication Solutions

Consortium forms global expert group to help organizations meet new industry demands for universal strong authentication

The Liberty Alliance Project, a global consortium for open federated identity and Web services standards, has announced the formation of a global, cross-organizational expert group focused on developing open specifications for interoperable strong authentication. Liberty's new Strong Authentication Expert Group has been created to speed the worldwide deployment of interoperable strong authentication and to help organizations meet new industry-wide demands for universal strong authentication solutions.

The Strong Authentication Expert Group (SAEG) leverages the work Liberty Alliance has been doing for the past year in defining clear market requirements for appropriately deploying strong authentication in a federated network. The group will expand this work beyond federation to build ID-SAFE (Identity Strong Authentication Framework), an open framework to allow strong authentication solutions such as, hardware and software tokens, smart cards, SMS-based systems and biometrics to interoperate across organizations, networks and vertical market segments.

"With increasing industry demand for better protection against online fraud and identity theft, there can be no question that the time for universal strong authentication has come," said Timo Skytta, vice president of the Liberty Alliance. "By forming the Strong Authentication Expert Group, Liberty is committing to rapidly deliver well defined and highly deployable solutions to help organizations meet new and pressing requirements for stronger authentication."

On October 12, 2005, the US Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) issued new guidance for banks on online authentication, which acknowledges that passwords alone are insufficient as the only means of security to protect a consumer bank account. This new guidance calls on banks to implement better ways to authenticate the identity of customers using online products and services. While governments and organizations around the world have moved to implement similar requirements, financial institutions based in the US are expected to achieve compliance with the new FFIEC guidance by the end of 2006.

Liberty's ID-SAFE will help all organizations more easily meet the challenges in implementing solutions consisting of more than usernames and passwords to strengthen online authentication. "Gartner predicts that by 2007, 80 percent of organizations will reach the ‘password breaking point' and will need to strengthen user authentication with alternative security methods," said Ant Allan, research vice president at Gartner. "Businesses need to put roadmaps in place now that will allow them to phase out passwords and replace them with stronger authentication methods."*

Strong authentication requires at least two forms of identity authentication for accessing a network or online application. Liberty 's ID-SAFE will offer standards-based online identity protection to allow organizations to deploy interoperable strong authentication faster, more cost-effectively and on a wider scale.

Widely deployed strong authentication based on ID-SAFE will provide organizations with opportunities to focus more on developing new business lines and e-commerce offerings while being able to rely on universal strong authentication that is easy to deploy and manage. Consumers will benefit from ID-SAFE with increased protection against identity theft and fraud, a seamless user experience across networks and advanced privacy protection based on individual consent and control.

"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 Security/Utility 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 - and that's where the Liberty Alliance has a strong track record of fast delivery."

Kevin Trilli of VeriSign, Inc. commented "For strong authentication to achieve its true potential, fresh approaches are needed in the development and deployment of two-factor authentication services.  Two years ago, VeriSign, along with several industry partners, sought to address the need for an open standards-approach with the creation of the Initiative for Open AuTHentication.  VeriSign applauds the Liberty Alliance for also recognizing this need, and we look forward to contributing to the ultimate goal of an open, global and federated authentication service that benefits all Internet users."

A full list of Liberty Alliance members, as well as information about how to become a member, is available at www.projectliberty.org .

*Gartner Research "Passwords Are Near the Breaking Point" by Ant Allan. December 6, 2004.

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