Government authentication pilot begins with MED

A practical pilot of the all-of-government authentication standard for public users of government services has begun, with the Ministry of Economic Development as the lead agency for the pilot phase.

Auckland City Council has "agreed to explore" how they could use the authentication scheme, officially referred to as the "shared logon service", says State Services Commission spokesman Jason Ryan.

A two-factor authentication scheme for stronger security has been discussed in the IT industry and media, with one-time passwords transmitted to customers' cellular phones suggested as one possibility. "A decision had not yet been made on a two-factor authentication method," Ryan says. "A number of options are being actively evaluated in relationship to the strength of authentication required for the services that will use the logon service in the initial implementation phase.

"Options include digital certificates, random number hardware tokens and 'Bingo' cards."

"Bingo" cards are a manual version of the random-number token, where the system "challenges" the user to supply the number that is at a certain position in a grid on a printed card he or she holds.

Datacom is the supplier for the authentication system, in collaboration with US firm RSA. The authentication program is budgeted at NZ$16.9 million (US$12.1 million) over the next two years and is being managed by the State Services Commission, Ryan says. The Datacom contract is for $8.3 million over three years.

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