Cyber-Security Czar Defends Government Role

Howard Schmidt, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, defended a new federal program that would allow individual Internet users to authenticate their online identities during a panel discussion held on the eve of the RSA security technology conference in San Francisco.

Mr. Schmidt argued that the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (or NSTIC) is meant to serve as a catalyst for the private sector to adopt however it sees fit, and will “balance privacy, anonymity and security.”

In a nutshell, NSTIC would be a way for individuals to sign onto Websites that adopt the voluntary federal program. Initially, the thinking goes, the program would be used by federal agencies to allow individuals to check things like electronic medical records held in government databases, but once proven and accepted, would be adopted by private organizations like banks and other commerce sites to ensure greater security for normal transactions.

Bruce Schneier, the head of cybersecurity for British Telecom, was generally supportive of the program, but also had a word of warning for Mr. Schmidt: “I really think this is something the government can’t control, and if it starts controlling it, everyone would freak.”

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