Security Experts:

NIST Awards $3.7 Million for Security Pilot Projects

The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) this week announced plans to award $3.7 million for three pilot projects aimed at online security and privacy improvements for various industries.

According to NIST, the goal is to improve the security of online transactions, as well as to offer better privacy capabilities to entities in healthcare, government services, transportation and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) grants will be offered to three recipients that will be in charge with pilot solutions designed to reduce theft in tax refund, to improve the safety of medical information, and to ensure secure online data storage, NIST said.

This is the fourth round of NSTIC grants managed by NIST as part of a strategy launched in since 2011, which involves collaboration between the private sector, advocacy groups and public-sector agencies. The goal is to encourage entities across industries to adopt secure, efficient, easy-to-use and interoperable identity credentials to access online services.

The three recipients of the grants are Billerica, Mass.-based MorphoTrust USA which recieved $1,005,168, Alexandria, Virginia-based HealthIDx ($813,922) and Galois of Portland, Oregon which received $1,856,778. 

This is the second NSTIC pilot grant awarded to MorphoTrust, which has partnered with a number of states for a project focused on preventing tax refund fraud. The aim is to create trustworthy electronic IDs that individuals control based on the trust created during the online driver licensing process, including enrollment, verification through biometric identification, authentication and validation, and issuance.

HealthIDx is working on technology to protect patients’ identity and information as part of a pilot program that is based on a “triple blind” approach in which medical service providers and credential service providers can’t view information on one another and the identity broker can’t tap into a transaction’s parties or contents.

Galois’ project is focused on offering users a tool for storing and sharing private information online. The data storage system is user-centric and will be built from scratch with biometric-based authentication, while also offering just-in-time transit ticketing on smart phones and integration into an Internet of Things-enabled smart home.

“The way we represent ourselves online is fundamental to nearly everything we do,” said Mike Garcia, acting director of the NSTIC National Program Office. “We need more—and better—tools to make online identity easier and more secure, and to advance the commercial deployment of privacy-enhancing technologies. The pilots we’re announcing today add to an NSTIC pilot portfolio that has already improved the digital lives of millions.”

NIST has been actively working to improve cybersecurity in a number of areas, and last year issued a revised Cybersecurity Framework to improve protection against economic and national security threats, which has been discussed by Torsten George in a SecurityWeek column earlier this year. In June, NIST released an updated version of its Guide to Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Security.

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