News Flash: U.S. Agencies to Use Alternative Forms of Authentication

Federal government gives agencies ID flexibility to fulfil services during COVID-19 crisis

As it scrambles to respond to the COVID-19 emergency, the U.S. government has given federal agencies the flexibility to use alternative forms of authentication to fulfil service gaps and achieve their goals.  In a memo, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget wrote that agencies can delay the completion of fingerprinting requirements, if necessary, as they bring on board mission-critical personnel.

“Agencies are able to make a risk determination and issue an alternate credential/authenticator for PIV eligible personnel,” the memo said. The federal government uses personal identity verification (PIV) credentials to authorise individuals to access federal facilities and information systems at the appropriate security level.

In an interview with FCW, Jeremy Grant, the coordinator of the Better Identity Coalition and a managing director at law firm Venable, said that agencies could use a mobile app that supports two-factor authentication in cases where a conventional security key or hardware token isn’t an option. “Many services could be delivered remotely if America had a robust digital identity infrastructure – but we don’t – and thus the partial shutdown,” Grant added. “I expect the need for more investments here to get additional attention in the months ahead.”

Separately, the United Nation’s International Computing Centre has hosted a virtual bootcamp to develop new solutions for digital identity and other IT issues for the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Refugee Agency, according to a report by Biometric Update. The article said that digital identity has proven a thorny issue for humanitarian organisations, and the WFP in particular, which has faced a possible shutdown of its operations in Yemen due to disputes about biometric aid delivery controls.

To read the U.S. government memo click here, to read the FCW article click here and to read the Biometric Update article click here.