FIDO Alliance introduces new government class; U.S., U.K. first to join

Strong authentication consortium adds NIST and U.K. Office of the Cabinet to list of nearly 200 members

The FIDO Alliance on Tuesday added a new government membership class and announced agencies from the U.S. and U.K. as its first members.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the United Kingdom Office of the Cabinet are joining to represent specific government needs from FIDO's strong authentication protocols.

Both governments are in varying stages of rollout of major identity projects and will carry the lessons they have learned into the FIDO Alliance.

In December, FIDO completed its 1.0 specifications and a number of members have deployed products and services based on those protocols, including Google Gamil, and just last month, Japanese mobile network operator DOCOMO.

NIST is the program office overseeing a four-year-old identity plan called the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), which is focused on getting private-sector companies to build and operate an "identity ecosystem" to strengthen security and decrease use of passwords on the Internet. The NSTIC program has already handed out more than $30 million in grants to fund pilot programs to build the NSTIC eco-system.

A cloud identity service called Connect.Gov is live and ensures citizens won't need a separate user name and password for each government agency they deal with such as the IRS or the Social Security Administration

Also, NSTIC recently introduced Mike Garcia as acting director to succeed Jeremy Grant, who had led NSTIC since it's creation in 2011. Garcia is tasked with guiding the next evolution of NSTIC.

The U.K. government is further down a similar identity path and the country has already executed a massive identity roll out aimed at consumer access to public services via mobile and social identities as part of its Identity Assurance (IDA) program. The U.K. program is a pioneer with its work developing an identity infrastructure at scale that links consumers and services while incorporating next-generation user interfaces and credentials. In addition, it solves back-end challenges such as secure user-data exchange and trust models.

Both groups will bring this expertise to the FIDO Alliance, which is getting set to release Bluetooth and NFC extensions to its Universal 2nd Factor protocol and is exploring future requirements that ensure widespread interoperability among devices, clients and servers via its FIDO 2.0 Specification Technology Working Group.

The FIDO Alliance has added other specialty groups to diversify its list of nearly 200 members, the most recent being non-profits.

"This will enable governments around the world to contribute their unique needs and perspectives to the next developments in FIDO standards," Dustin Ingalls, president of the FIDO Alliance, said in a statement.