Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Government Privacy Security The Internet United States Your Rights Online

White House Unveils Plans For "Trusted Identities In Cyberspace" 202

Presto Vivace writes with news that the Obama administration's cyber-security coordinater, Howard Schmidt, yesterday unveiled a national plan for "trusted" online identities. Schmidt wrote, "The NSTIC, which is in response to one of the near term action items in the President’s Cyberspace Policy Review, calls for the creation of an online environment, or an Identity Ecosystem as we refer to it in the strategy, where individuals and organizations can complete online transactions with confidence, trusting the identities of each other and the identities of the infrastructure that the transaction runs on. For example, no longer should individuals have to remember an ever-expanding and potentially insecure list of usernames and passwords to login into various online services. Through the strategy we seek to enable a future where individuals can voluntarily choose to obtain a secure, interoperable, and privacy-enhancing credential (e.g., a smart identity card, a digital certificate on their cell phone, etc.) from a variety of service providers — both public and private — to authenticate themselves online for different types of transactions (e.g., online banking, accessing electronic health records, sending email, etc.)." You can read the full draft of the plan (PDF), and the White House is seeking public comments on it as well.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

White House Unveils Plans For "Trusted Identities In Cyberspace"

Comments Filter:
  • OpenID? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by koreaman ( 835838 ) <> on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:19AM (#32701870)

    One ID you can use anywhere? Sounds a lot like what the OpenID project is already trying to do. It's a nice concept, but I don't like the idea of anything like this being run by the government. Government interference with the internet seems to be the fastest way to dystopia, these days.

    • Re:OpenID? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gclef ( 96311 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:43AM (#32701988)

      It's actually a little better and a little worse than what you think. They're proposing setting up a "ecosystem" of identity providers, so commercial organizations will issue identity certs with the gov't just setting the standards they all live by to interoperate, etc. On that front, that isn't as bad as it could have been.

      On the other hand, there is an enormous amount of naivete in their "strategy" about how the identity providers will act. Their examples talk about having your cell phone provider be the organization that issues your identity cert for use in this system. What happens when you change providers? When I shift from Verizon to AT&T, can I move the AT&T cert to my Verizon phone? Also, am I forevermore tied to AT&T for my identity verification? What if that company goes bankrupt? What if you *want* to change identity providers? If you can change providers, what happens to the records that provider kept? What about the records that other information providers tied to the old cert? Do they keep the certificate (and therefore the ability to impersonate you online)? What happens if I lose my phone (and therefore lose my cert)?

      The effort isn't completely crack-addled, but it is hopelessly naive. I think it'll fail unless it gets a big dose of reality shortly.

      • by Rydia ( 556444 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:48AM (#32702006)

        Most of the problems you raise are pretty trivially solved by remembering that it's the government talking about this. AT&T tries to keep your identity to impersonate you? The government can lock AT&T out of the system, or fine the crap out of them, or whatever sanction they want. This actually reminds me somewhat of the records provisions of HIPAA, which are actually pretty good about making sure records are used properly and are given to the people who are supposed to have them (too bad they're all a bunch of incoherent sheafs of paper).

        • Re:OpenID? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by gclef ( 96311 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @10:01AM (#32702076)

          If they mentioned any sort of consideration for things like what I was mentioning above, I'd be much more confident about the program. There is no mention of any of this stuff in their strategy doc (I actually read the PDF, I'm sorry to say). That makes me think they haven't considered it at all.

          Mis-use by a provider is one thing, and, yes, I'd agree that I'd expect the gov't to deal with it harshly. But institutional helplessness is a very different beast. Situations that go like "I'm sorry, sir, we can't let you use another company's certificates with our phones. You can still get another identity from us, though." wouldn't be a lock-out, but it would make the system an enormous pain in the ass.

          Also, if you can't ever change identity providers, it means companies will be guaranteed a revenue stream from you, perpetually. Even if you decide you want to leave Verizon, if they're your identity provider you would *have* to work with them (and probably pay them). Again, if there had been any consideration made for these sorts of issues I'd be less leery of them...but the PDF was this sunny thing that considered none of the cases where this thing fails.

      • I think it'll fail unless it gets a big dose of reality shortly. how many things in our society, both public and private, have remained untouched by reality?
      • Re:OpenID? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Fartypants ( 120104 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @10:34AM (#32702290)
        I would add political naivete to that list. In an era where Obama's opposition is trying to paint him as an intrusive big government trampler of individual rights, coming out with a program to provide identity cards to people so they can be more easily identified and tracked on the Internet - no matter how well intentioned - is just begging to be used against him.
        • by OnlineAlias ( 828288 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @11:09AM (#32702488)

          Agree completely. On some issues I am quite liberal...this idea is not only dumb technically (we have certs/crypto already, and that is good enough; witness massive expansion of e-commerce), but it is also political suicide.

          This is so bad I wonder if the Obama administration is even proposing it, and not a right wing smear job.

          Dumb dumb dumb.

          • by bnenning ( 58349 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @02:07PM (#32703500)

            This is so bad I wonder if the Obama administration is even proposing it, and not a right wing smear job.

            It's entirely consistent for the party that brought us (or tried to) the Clipper Chip and encryption bans and the CDA and DMCA. Those with power always seek to increase their power, regardless of party; and those out of power will pretend to care about civil liberties. One of the leading voices against the Clipper Chip was John Ashcroft, who spoke eloquently about the necessity of privacy and anonymity, until his side won an election. Sound familiar?

        • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <> on Saturday June 26, 2010 @03:00PM (#32703842)

          What makes you think they'd be wrong?

          This claims to be all for good purposes, but are you now believing the word of a politician? About the actions of his project in the hands of his successors?

          Sorry, I find this project scary. I'd say that it was accidental, but then I remember that this is the senator that voted for FISA.

          Obama *IS* a big government maniac. Just don't think the opposition is any different in this regard. Their track record is, if anything, worse. And pay no attention to their dialectic and philosophical speeches. Pay attention, instead, to what they vote for and what policies they support.

      • Re:OpenID? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:12PM (#32702816) Homepage

        It's a lot worse than you think. I just finished reading the draft. This is an effort to impose Trusted Platform Modules - globally. For those not familiar with Trusted Platform Modules, it all boils down to one simple point. Computers and other electronic devices with each have a Master Key locked inside. A master key locking and controlling operation of the device. The owner is forbidden to know or control the key locking and controlling his devices. That leads to many technically complex results, but the simple point is that you are forbidden to know "your own" master security keys. They describe all sorts of supposed benefits of the system, but the inescapable end fact is that the system is designed to secure your computer against you. The simple simple point is that if you are forbidden to know your own keys then the system is locked against you. You are denied ownership and full control of your own computers.

        I made a few very hasty notes from the draft document. Many of these items should scare the shit out of everyone:

        Draft page 4, blue box: Identity card for to "anonymous" bloggers, i.e. no anonymous blogs. Identity card for e-mail.

        page 15 explicitly states this is based upon the Trusted Platform Module.

        Page 19 lists your ELECTRIC COMPANY adopting the system and requiring you to use it to access your account. (Although the DESCRIBED usage is plausibly optional web access)

        Page 22 requires new laws "establishing an enforcement mechanism" for this system. Says government services will be used to drive adoption by the public. Says government buying power will be used to drive adoption in the business sector.

        Page 23 explicitly names Intellectual Property Protection as a purpose of the system.

        Page 24 explicitly states that "the scope of this strategy extends beyond national boundaries". Says the US Federal government must establish programs to execute this strategy. Says the US Federal government is to focus its recourses on influencing national and international standards to carry out this strategy. "Coordinate Federal Government efforts associated with digital identities both domestically and internationally".

        Page 25 "cybersecurity is becoming a matter of diplomacy, activities under the strategy intend to address the increased importance of international policy efforts. The Federal Government, by leading and coordinating national efforts, as well as collaborating on international policy efforts, can drive a unified approach to trusted digital identities". "the creation of a global trusted infrastructure" Says the government should fund research and development of these systems and transfer it to the commercial sector.
        "Todays environment is driven by a global economy, with transactions occurring without regard to physical or political boundaries; the infrastructure developed under this strategy will, to the extent feasible, be interoperable among these environments, while also respecting the laws and policies of different nations."

        Page 26 "The Federal Government is committed to the actions herein and will move forward as a leader, first adopter, and enabler" "The White House will select an agency and hold it accountable for coordinating the processes and organizations that will implement the Strategy".

        Page 27 "All levels of Government will play a part in the adoption of the Identity Ecosystem for government services. As a major provider of services spanning individuals, private sector, and other governments, the Federal Government is positioned to enable high impact, high penetration Identity Ecosystem services."

        Page 29 says the Federal Government will engage in media campaign activities to persuade the public to accept the system. (I would call it propaganda, though I have no doubt others would disagree with the use of that word.) "Success of the Identity Ecosystem depends on participation from multi-national corporations and global providers in the use of federated identities and that interoperable and scalable to internet lev

        • Re:OpenID? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:50PM (#32703050) Homepage

          Yesterday's story Senate Panel Approves Cybersecurity Bill [] would give the president an emergency 'kill switch' over the Internet, but added some restrictions to the bill. The president may no longer simply assert that the threat remains indefinitely, he must now seek Congressional approval after 120 days.

          There is an important connection between these two stories. The "Trusted Identities in Cyberspace" system includes something called Trusted Network Connect. Technical PDF on Trusted Network Connect. [] Once the Trusted Identities in Cyberspace system is in place (lets call it ten years as a nice round number) Trusted Network Connect is designed to selectively ban noncompliant computers from getting internet access. In the event of an "cyber attack" or internet virus the U.S. government would have the power to shut down any or all internet connections for 120 days, and then asking Congress to extend it indefinitely. The Trusted Network Connect feature means that this shutdown can, and would, be limited to locking out computers that are not secured by the Trusted Identities system. Any computer that lacked a Trusted Platform Module would be unable to connect to the internet. The effect would be a global internet lockout against noncompliant computers. Anyone who declined to "voluntarily" opt-in to the Global Trusted Identities system would be denied internet access. Any nation that declined to comply would be locked out of the internet.

          If the Trusted Identities system goes forward is is only a question of how many years it will take before noncompliant computers can and will be denied access to the Global Trusted Internet.


          • by CaptainNerdCave ( 982411 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @04:41PM (#32704504)
            We'll make our own internet! With blackjack, and hookers!
          • Re:OpenID? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @05:13PM (#32704738)

            "Trusted Computing" aka TC/TCG/LaGrande/NGSCB/Longhorn/Palladium/TCPA is one of the greatest threats to freedom and anonymity ever known. Read the FAQ.


            This is what the administration is talking about implementing. This will give the government a frightening amount of control & power over the internet and communications. This isn't some card you carry around, it's built right into the CPU and gives the government total control over your computer *and any information in it*.

            It will control what gets published on the 'net and even provides the ability to remove all instances of a document from any computer that connects to the 'net and retroactively "unpublish" anything the government (and it's friends) don't like. No more WikiLeaks.

            Once fully implemented, unless the computer you use has this chip enabled & linked to an identity, your ISP's routers won't let you connect. It will allow control over what software may be installed. Forget linux and other F/OSS software and systems getting certified, at least at costs (in both financial terms and in freedom/security) an F/OSS project could reasonably afford or tolerate.

            This is a wet-dream for governments wanting to control people & information, and their multinational corporate friends.


        • by Wowsers ( 1151731 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @01:48PM (#32703360) Journal

          The concept of trusted ID is frightening, the recently kicked out UK government also had a warped sense of necessity for a similar project, with their IT friends getting a nice slice of taxpayers money (the ID cards project immediately springs to mind).

          Mod me as flamebait if you like for the following.....

          You can look on the bright side, America is nearly BROKE ! The Chinese are fed up of propping up the American economy that just spends spends spends under pretext of a stimulus package (following the discredited Keynsian economics [] made you bust). The UK has already shelved or about to, a lot of the previous governments IT plans because the UK is broke, the USA will HAVE to do the same.

          • by UpnAtom ( 551727 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @06:08PM (#32705092) Homepage

            Funnnily enough, the British ID card scheme made no attempt to provide online authorisation/identification.

            It was simply an attempt to get us to register our activities, medical records, DNA records, tax records etc into one big Stasi file on each of us.

            Even when the scheme was changed to be non-compulsory, they had no intention of getting rid of the database, the National Identity Register. If you registered a passport before the election, you were liable to be registered on the NIR along with your bank details.

            All of the IT companies Labour used are US-based. They're all represented by a lobbyist firm called Intellect who helped to write the ID card legislation - who was responsible for the deeply scary aspects of it, I don't know.

            One of the IT contractors for British ID cards and the medical database, CSC, merged with a mercenary group similar to Blackwater. An IT group merging with a gang of thugs who do the CIA's dirty business... What do you make of that then?

            Not sure what to make of Obama atm. Extraordinary rendition is unspeakably evil. Is he Frodo? Keeping an eye on the internet developments...

        • Re:OpenID? (Score:3, Funny)

          by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @03:32PM (#32704026)

          The owner is forbidden to know or control the key locking and controlling his devices.

          Do you have a credit card? One of the newer ones with a chip inside? If so, you own a device with private keys locked inside which you don't have access to. This is just an extension of that idea to identity management on a computer. It's not nearly as scary as you make it out to be.

          • Re:OpenID? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by RenderSeven ( 938535 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @06:06PM (#32705076)

            Do you have a credit card ...with a chip inside?.

            No, actually, I dont. I chose not to, and thats fine because its optional. Big difference.

          • Re:OpenID? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @06:56PM (#32705414) Homepage

            It's not nearly as scary as you make it out to be.

            I have studied the technical specifications of this. Yes, it is what I described and more. Either you don't know the Trust system very well or you and I have extremely different ideas about what is good vs what is scary.

            The Trusted Platform Module (TPM) has three primary functions. #1 is to hold the master keys locked away specifically secure against the owner himself. #2 is called Sealed Storage, this encrypts files on the computer and again specifically secured against the owner being able to read or modify his own files except under the strict control and permission of the TPM chip. #3 is called Remote Attestation, this means that the TPM chip keeps a spy log of the hardware and software on your computer specifically for the purpose of sending this log out to remote parties over the internet, and again this spy log is specifically designed to be secure against any control or modification by the owner.

            The TPM chip prohibits you from being able to read or modify YOUR OWN FILES (Sealed Storage) unless you are running precisely the approved and mandatory software and hardware dictated by other people via Remote Attestation. It turns your computer into an insane ultra-DRM system and worse.

            The way Trusted Network Connect works, or any Trust-based software over the internet, the first thing that happens is you get tested for having a TPM chip. If your computer doesn't have a TPM then the connection is denied. If do you have a Trust chip but you didn't "opt-in" and turn it on, again the connection is denied. The next step is the Remote Attestation check. If you are not running a specifically approved operating system you again fail the check and are again denied a connection. This also check that you are running a specifically approved BIOS and an approved bootloader and that all of your drivers are approved. If any of this software has not been specifically approved then you fail the Trust test and again your connection is rejected. If you have attempted to modify any of the system software, or if you are not up to date with all mandatory patches, again you fail the Trust test and again your connection is denied. It then checks exactly what applications you are running (and what you are forbidden to run). For example your ISP could mandate that you be running a specific approved virus scanner and firewall. If you're not, or if you have attempted to modify them, you fail the check and your connection is denied. Or if you are connecting to any sort of music or video site it can enforce that you're running specific uber-DRM software. If you connect to a general website it can check that you have an approved webbrowser and check that you're not doing any sort of ad blocking. And again if you fail the check the connection is denied. And your files get locked under Sealed Storage that enforce all of these same things even when you're offline. If cannot access the Sealed files unless you are not running an exact unmodified approved operating system with the exact unmodified drivers and exact unmodified software (and that you're NOT running any prohibited software).

            It is an ultimate remote ownership of your computer. You get locked out of the entire Trust system and get locked out of your own files and nothing works unless you are running an approved unmodified operating system with approved unmodified software. This chip denies you access or control of your own files if you attempt to modify any of the software or if you attempt to use other software of your own design or your own choice.

            The way they sell it to the public is as a "security system". Trusted Network Connect is advertised as preventing virus infected (or virus vulnerable) computers from getting onto a network and causing damage. If you aren't running an approved operating system, or if you are running custom software, then Trusted Network Connect cannot validate that your computer is uninfected. If you fail the Trust checks then your computer gets "quarantined", denied network access, until you "fix" your computer to match the specific known approved virus-free configuration.


      • by stonewallred ( 1465497 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:49PM (#32703044)
        Like I would want to entrust my information with either the government or some "secure" provider/certification. All it would take is for them to issue such a thing, and every hacker and every rogue nation would be putting forth every ounce of energy, time and money possible to break it. Screw the scams and other current methods. Crack it and you are rich. Not safe or viable IMNSHO.
    • by elucido ( 870205 ) * on Saturday June 26, 2010 @10:00AM (#32702068) [] is a good technology. It's open and it's based around GPG. The main thing holding us back is the lack of hardware standards and lack of hardware in general. We should have the hardware in place otherwise a lot of the software will be useless.

      We need better smartcards, better e-tokens. The idea of putting identity on our cellphones is stupid. Put it on a card so it can be put in your wallet or hidden if necessary. By putting it in your cellphone it's a huge target for hackers.

      • by wkk2 ( 808881 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @01:48PM (#32703354)

        I would be happy if there was a ban on the import of keyboards, laptops and cellphones without an integrated smart card slot. If readers were common the market would probably workout the details with federated cards or cards issued by companies for specific purposes. I already use smart cards for ssh and other purposes. I am using external readers, PCMCIA readers, and even a Dell keyboard with a slot. One cellphone already has a reader but it's only sold to approved users or I would use it too. Malware won't be able to extract the private key and if the device dies, the card will be usable elsewhere.

    • Envision it! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by neoshroom ( 324937 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @10:39AM (#32702330)

      From the Document Itself:

      "Envision It!

      An individual voluntarily requests a smart identity card from
      her home state. The individual chooses to use the card to
      authenticate herself for a variety of online services, including:
              Credit card purchases,
              Online banking,
              Accessing electronic health care records,
              Securely accessing her personal laptop computer,
              Anonymously posting blog entries, and
              Logging onto Internet email services using a

      I always want to use a self-identifying card when anonymously posting blog entries. Seems like this also could be easily abused by a government who conducts warrantless wiretaps and other illicit snooping.

      "Imagine a world where individuals can seamlessly access information and services online from a variety of sources - the government, the private sector, other individuals, and even across national borders - with reduced fear of identity theft or fraud, lower probability of losing access to critical services and data, and without the need to manage many accounts and passwords."

      Honestly, this doesn't seem like a good idea from a security standpoint either. Let's say I wanted to commit fraud or identity theft or any of the other things this card is supposed to prevent. Now, originally, I would have to compromise your 30 passwords. If I hacked your blog, I wouldn't be able to access your bank account because they have different passwords. Now, if a blackhat hacker hacks this universal access method they get universal access. Scary.

    • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:33PM (#32702946)

      Government interference with the internet seems to be the fastest way to dystopia, these days.

      Thank goodness private citizens, acting with complete freedom and in their own self-interest, built the internet, promulgated standards to operate it and maintain the authorities that regulate it. Oh wait...

      Your error is in assuming that there can be more or less government interference on the Internet. Government interference pervades the Internet -- the assets that form it are owned by huge state-owned firms or cartels of service providers, and your service can be curtailed for essentially any reason, by government or corporate interests. The only question is who that interference will benefit, the individuals or the authorities, corporate or governmental or otherwise. Sometimes it's not a zero-sum game, but only sometimes.

    • As opposed to your SSN and Driver's license?

  • Yet another OpenID (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iamapizza ( 1312801 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:20AM (#32701876)
    So isn't this just another one of those open/secure authentication mechanisms, which means that we're now going to have to remember an ever expanding and potentially insecure methods, instead of passwords, of identifying ourselves to various entities on teh internetz?
  • Trusted? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:20AM (#32701880)

    Who do you Serve, and Who do you Trust

    -- Galen the Technomage, B5Crusade

  • by shuz ( 706678 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:22AM (#32701886) Homepage Journal
    It is good to see that the government are using existing technologies for political talking points. Now if government tries to push something other than SSL I would be disappointed.
  • by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:23AM (#32701890) Journal
    but ms passport sucked
  • by selven ( 1556643 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:25AM (#32701904)

    The problem of authenticating yourself many times to different websites is solved by OpenID. The problem of having a secure web identity is also solved - anyone can put a public key on their homepage and sign everything they write. The inclusion of credit cards and electronic health records suggests the true motive for this policy: trying to tie people's internet identities to real life identities. Thanks, but given that the opinions I post here have already earned me 3 'foes' I'd rather not have every potential employer take a look at my Slashdot account.

  • Got a link? (Score:5, Funny)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:26AM (#32701908)

    I need to download a German accented voice so when my computer says, "Your papers, please." it will sound authentic.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:26AM (#32701912)

    Why not just tattoo a barcode on the back of my neck and inject and RFID tag into my left wrist and be done with it.

  • by Spazntwich ( 208070 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:41AM (#32701974)

    They can trust the identity of deez nuts.

    Go easy on me, moderators.

  • Trust? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:41AM (#32701978)

    >where individuals and organizations can complete online transactions with confidence,
    >trusting the identities of each other and the identities of the infrastructure that the transaction runs on

    I see, so we just hand over the keys to our online identities and trust the Federal Government instead. Right. And what if we would rather not trust them? Some of us might not want the Fed having access to everything we do. And if such a plan gains traction, you can bet that sites will jump on it and consumers won't have any choice but to use such a system or be denied access to more and more online stuff.

  • Don't like (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dogun ( 7502 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:46AM (#32702000) Homepage

    I think a 'strong identity' transactional system likely requires a secret known to a user, paired with a hardware device that can be remotely disabled, and is difficult to tamper with and lift the user's keypair from, even with the user's password. I think that can be built, but the 'remote kill' potential is alarming in the context of a national (or more than national) strong-identity system. In order to be reliable, parties will have to check transactions against some sort of central database, which is a serious privacy concern.

    My suspicion is that any system you attempt to use for this purpose is immensely more useful when you ditch the 'strong identity' requirement, as a strong transactional system is good at preventing fraud, and with no (or limited) identity tied to a transaction, there is no substantial risk to privacy, data disclosure, etc, which are the stated goals of the plan.

  • by Zedrick ( 764028 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:46AM (#32702002)
    I wish my government would do something similar, like calling for the creation of flying ponies for everyone. No, wait - flying invisible ponies for everyone! I'm sure there would be no problem getting reality to comply with government wishes.
  • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:51AM (#32702018)

    Certainly not the government. Our "trust" has recently netted us one economic disaster, and one industrial catastrophe. I realize that the current method isn't optimal, but he who has the information, has the control. That having been said, I'd like to retain as much control as possible, especially when it comes to information that can be easily stored, profiled, shared, etc. One of *anything*, I'd argue, is a bad choice. Something about eggs, baskets, human nature, greed, power, etc.

  • Itsatrap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by davegravy ( 1019182 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:54AM (#32702044)

    At fist such a system would be opt-in. Then it would gradually become mandatory in the name of fighting pedophilia (think of the children!) Then you can kiss online anonymity goodbye.

    • by elucido ( 870205 ) * on Saturday June 26, 2010 @10:03AM (#32702084)

      who is "they"? And how would they force you to log into 4chan?

      • by N0Man74 ( 1620447 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @01:44PM (#32703324)

        At fist such a system would be opt-in. Then it would gradually become mandatory in the name of fighting pedophilia (think of the children!) Then you can kiss online anonymity goodbye.

        who is "they"? And how would they force you to log into 4chan?

        Indeed, who is this "they"? The post you are responding to never said "they".

        However, the *FIST* is not imaginary. I can only assume that "at fist such a system would be opt-in" means they punch you until you agree to opt-in.

  • by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @10:08AM (#32702124)
    1. I don't trust the government to be competent with this
    2. I don't trust the government to not abuse this power
    The government is perhaps the single most important entity to protect yourself from. If cashflows and internet security are under the government's thumb, then contaband and actions to protect yourself from the government are going to be much harder to come by. I don't want a government ID credit card, I want a closer equivalent to cash, so i can make online purchases with LESS of a paper trail.
  • by bl8n8r ( 649187 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @10:21AM (#32702204)
    having a government run operation where I can safely store my name, address, soc. # and ip address sounds awesome. It will bring states an easier way to collect sales tax for my online purchases too which will save me some time filing out my taxes every year. Since it's run by the us gov, I'm sure they'll have a reputable source overseeing the security of the system also. You know, like Diebold or maybe Blackwater.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2010 @10:36AM (#32702312)

    Your plan advocates a

    (x) technical (x) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

    approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

    (x) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
    (x) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
    ( ) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
    (x) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
    (x) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
    (x) Users of email will not put up with it
    ( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
    ( ) The police will not put up with it
    ( ) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
    (x) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
    (x) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
    ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
    ( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

    Specifically, your plan fails to account for

    ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
    (x) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
    ( ) Open relays in foreign countries
    ( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
    (x) Asshats
    (x) Jurisdictional problems
    (x) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
    ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
    (x) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
    (x) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
    (x) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
    (x) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
    (x) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
    ( ) Extreme profitability of spam
    (x) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
    (x) Technically illiterate politicians
    ( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
    ( ) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
    ( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
    (x) Outlook

    and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

    (x) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever
    been shown practical
    ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
    (x) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
    (x) Blacklists suck
    (x) Whitelists suck
    ( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
    ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
    (x) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
    (x) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
    ( ) Sending email should be free
    (x) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
    (x) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
    (x) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
    ( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
    (x) I don't want the government reading my email
    ( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

    Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

    ( ) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
    (x) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
    (x) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your
    house down!

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt AT nerdflat DOT com> on Saturday June 26, 2010 @10:47AM (#32702380) Journal
    .... when it is compromised?

    Can you say single point of failure?

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @11:06AM (#32702468) Homepage Journal

    This is what we are witnessing. And its going out with applause and support. :(

  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @11:16AM (#32702528) Homepage Journal

    Read this proposal for what it is: a different way to name an attempt of removing anonymity from the web.

    The NSTIC, which is in response to one of the near term action items in the President's Cyberspace Policy Review, calls for the creation of an online environment, or an Identity Ecosystem as we refer to it in the strategy, where individuals and organizations can complete online transactions with confidence, trusting the identities of each other and the identities of the infrastructure that the transaction runs on. ...

    - I am sure this is going to be made a requirement for a site to operate at some point, add this to the 'Internet kill switch', add the Patriot Act to it, multiply by Home Land Security and don't forget to factor in the rendition, you are going to have an interesting situation.

    The President will be able to shut down portions of the Internet, he will be able to identify who was saying what and when, this entire thing reeks of totalitarianism - complete control by the government over the dissemination of information and total knowledge of who was saying what on which topic plus ability to take action - shut down the dissenting portions of the web and then 'taking the necessary care' of those, who dare to oppose the government in any way, be it direct opposition to specific policies or be it simply providing information to the people that government wants to keep quiet and providing a forum to discuss this information.

  • Voluntary eh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fluffy99 ( 870997 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @11:22AM (#32702558)

    Except you'll probably be required by the states (who are held hostage by federal funding) to have one to get a drivers license or benefits. This is yet another back-door attempt to institute a national ID card, except this would also happen to let the govt decrypt all your transactions.

  • NOBODY WANTS THIS... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Panaflex ( 13191 ) <convivialdingo&yahoo,com> on Saturday June 26, 2010 @11:50AM (#32702684)

    I should know, we spent 3 years building the most secure commercial internet authentication system, with a 5 site redundant cloud of authentication services. 3 of 5 sites were necessary to pass an authentication, so we could handle two complete site thefts, or two complete site disasters and still authenticate safely (auth material was split utilizing a secret sharing algorithm). Each of our data sites were military-grade EMI/Faraday cages, under separate corporate ownerships.

    In other words we spend millions on building the easiest & safest way to authenticate a user on the 'net, with most of that on auditing, code reviews, facility buildout etc...

    And nobody wanted it!! Not for any price... not even for 50 cents/user a year!! Banks said users would NEVER type in two passwords,... HA!

  • by bagofbeans ( 567926 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @11:51AM (#32702688)

    ..where the common ID is voluntary, reasonable, useful.
    Part two is the law forcing all ecommerce to use the ID for taxation.
    Part three is the law forcing all political discourse comment (blogs etc) to use the ID to protect the children and prevent terrorism.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:04PM (#32702772) Homepage Journal

    For example, no longer should individuals have to remember an ever-expanding and potentially insecure list of usernames and passwords

    I don't mind having to remember an ever expanding list of usernames and passwords. And I don't see how that's more insecure than something with a single point of failure.

  • One Step Closer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Russianspi ( 1129469 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:10PM (#32702806)
    I almost checked the "Post Anonymously" button on principle, but the difference is that I can choose what part of my identity to share with Slashdot. I just finished reading How to Access the Internet, A Guide from 2015 [] when I flipped to Slashdot and saw this article. Here's the first step. Creepy.
  • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:44PM (#32703028)
    For example, no longer should individuals have to remember an ever-expanding and potentially insecure list of usernames and passwords to login into various online services.

    That's actually creating many other problems. For example, if my online identity is the same across many sites, information that I am not willingly providing to one site can just be scraped off another. As another example, various bits of data can all be easily tied back to an individual, undermining their privacy.
  • by Edulix ( 726376 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @01:41PM (#32703298) Homepage

    Looks like the future is coming. Fast. See this post that appeared in digg TODAY []

    So this is what the future is going to be like. First step, make this voluntarily. Then a lot of services will use this. I live in Spain, and I see this coming. Here Franco's dictatorship stablished what you're fighting against in many countries right now: a national identity card (called DNI). Our DNI is already an electronic, comes with a chip with all the information and can be read with a card reader, and contains some legally valid certificates with which you can authenticate and sign anything.

    For us, this is a normal thing because we've been living having DNI for decades, and if you ask just about ANYONE, it's good. The police have our fingerprints, photos, and all data, and this way they can identify anyone, they can use the fingerprint for crime-scene-techniques like in CSI, etc.

    Now the government of Spain is spending a lot of money and time trying to make people use the electronic DNI. They have a nice web page with info for developers ( An increasing number of websites are using https (SSL) for authentication via e-DNI (like banks), and Java Applets for signing all kind of things. For example there's a webpage (tractis) in which you can sign electronic and legally valid contracts.

    You might be an optimist and think you have two choices: you can either fight against it, or use it. But really, read all above. This is not something you can easily fight against. I am an advocator for liberties, but I'm also used to having DNI, and I've surrendered. I'm helping a new political party called "Partido de Internet" (Internet Party) whose aim is to be able to have a liquid democracy in which our representatives will vote what people vote over the Internet.... using DNI-e. So yes, I'm helping the governmental machinery trying to spread the usage of electronic national identity cards. Welcome our 1984 overlords!

    This is the first step. Next step will be to make its usage mandatory for every login. They're requiring everyone to secure their wifi in Germany to prevent unauthorized people from using their Web access to illegally download data. And then, probably much earlier than 2025, we'll be as bad as in the first digg link in this post. We're already living in a distopy worse than 1984 in many ways, but we see it normal because it can always get worse - and it certainly will.

  • by moeinvt ( 851793 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @03:03PM (#32703858)

    The Federal government is borrowing and spending over $1.6 trillion ( > 10%) of GDP this year alone. A debt, that We, The People will eventually be responsible for, either through pernicious levels of taxation, or theft of our accumulated wealth by destruction of the currency (If someone sees another possible eventuality, it would cheer me up to hear about it.)

    Yet, with this catastrophic fiscal crisis clearly on the way, the government still seems to find the time and resources to conduct a relentless assault on the civil liberites of the citizens that it pretends to serve.

    By the People, of the People, for the People ????

    Is there anyone out there besides the Mainstream Media, government employees and the politically well connected elite that even believes that sad, cruel joke anymore?

    The fact that we continue to PAY for this nonsense is the most infuriating thing of all.

  • Missing the Point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @03:33PM (#32704036) Homepage

    There are two fundamental cases in which identity matters. In the first, identity matters because you want to know with whom you are dealing. For example, the bank really needs to know that the person accessing their systems is who they say they are, so that they can connect the presented identity with the requested resource without placing themselves in legal jeopardy. The ISP needs to be able to associate the incoming line with an account so that the billing is sent to the right place. In this kind of interaction, it is absolutely essential that means of securing the identity exist outside of the Internet and have legal force. But these uses are also relatively few, out of the many cases for use of identity.

    In the second, you want to know that the person you are dealing with is the same person you dealt with before, but you don't really care who they are. When I log into Google to read my RSS feeds, Google doesn't really need to know who I am; Google needs to know that I am the same identity that has visited before, so that it can appropriately target ads (from its point of view) and show me the information I've asked for (from my point of view). For the most part, authenticating to computers in a work environment does not really care about who you are, so much as it cares about what you have access to. If the system thinks I'm "John Doe," but gives me access to only those resources I should have and no others, then it has succeeded at its purpose.

    Most people would be reasonably happy to have the government involved in the first type of case, for the same reason most people are perfectly happy to have the government issue driver's licenses that are used as identification, or passports used as identification. Yet even in those cases, most people would probably not be happy to have all of their identity documents issued by the same level of government and used for every possible purpose. (For example, try proposing the use of Social Security cards as identification, and see what happens.) This is because people are more worried about promiscuous overuse of irrevocable identity, and the risks that entails, than they are about having multiple forms of identification. Despite the solution of many trust issues, people want the ability to refuse to get a passport, or refuse to get a driver's license, or whatever, should they so choose. The second set of cases is even more evidently none of the government's business. The government should not be involved in what I rent from the video store, what I get from the library, what I buy online and the like. They may need to collect value/volume metrics tied to me, depending on the taxation scheme in use, but that's as far as it goes.

    If I trusted the government to stick to the first case, and to make a competent execution of it, then I would not have much problem with limited use of such a system, revocable at any point by the user and completely optional. But I don't trust that execution would be competent, that the government would limit its intrusions, that the government would allow revocation of an identity once issued, or that the government would keep the system optional. So frankly, this strikes me as a very, very bad idea.

  • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @03:36PM (#32704058)
    This sounds pretty much exactly like the system Vernor Vinge described in "Rainbow's End." (Which also included the "kill switch" that came up on slashdot [] a few days ago.) However Vinge had what seemed to me to be a naive optimism that the government would have some kind of epiphany and realize that it should use such unprecedented power only to protect people from serious crimes, and not for the kind of petty things the government currently abuses its power for.
  • by Chowderbags ( 847952 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @05:13PM (#32704726)
    Couldn't you solve this problem with public key encryption based digital signatures? I mean, you don't even need some giant government database containing the keys to everyone's private information. The entire point is to let anyone and everyone have my public key, and in fact to assume that every malicious person has everything associated with any transaction involved except for my private key. So long as people keep their private key private, then there's no problem (ok, big assumption, but no worse than passwords currently are), and as a plus it could also be used to set up cryptography as the normal way for information to travel over the internet... oh, I see why the government would never encourage that. Nevermind.
  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @05:33PM (#32704860) Homepage

    A smart card might well be a useful tool to safely present your identity to many different web sites. However, that's not the only way. And I am not talking about OpenID, which has risks. And I am not even talking about delegating any form of trust to another party (which OpenID does).

    The simple answer is that browsers should maintain your identity information. You provide the encryption passphrase to access that database of identity info. Each time you visit a site that requests a login (by means of standardized headers in the HTTP response for this, which includes an HTTPS URL to present identity), a indicator of your choice in the browser will inform you that you have the option to signup or login. You might even set a given site name to be automatically logged in, if you prefer (a flag added to the identity info stored in your encrypted database). The signup process exchanges random numbers. To login, the browser switches to HTTPS and verifies the certificate against both the CA certificates as usual, and also a certificate reference in the identity database. Then an authenticity exchange of choice (password, CRAM-MD5, etc) will take place from information established when first signing up. Then you're in. No need for a third party.

    The scheme needs to be open source so it can verified as correct. The format for the database needs to be standardized so it can be ported to other tools when desired (probably best a text format, compressed, then encrypted).

    Now this scheme won't connect a signup to a real person. If a web site wants that (for example a bank), then more needs to be done, and that smart card might be one way to do it. But for accessing web sites like Slashdot, that should not matter (free speech doesn't need to know who you really are, and for various reasons, must not, or else the speech can't really be free). I just don't want people thinking the smart card is needed for most web site logins (although the smart card might well be someone's preference for opening the encrypted database of web site identities).

Luck, that's when preparation and opportunity meet. -- P.E. Trudeau