National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

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The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is a US government initiative announced in April 2011 to improve the privacy, security and convenience of sensitive online transactions through collaborative efforts with the private sector, advocacy groups, government agencies, and other organizations.[1]

The strategy imagined an online environment where individuals and organizations can trust each other because they identify and authenticate their digital identities and the digital identities of organizations and devices.[2] It was promoted to offer, but not mandate, stronger identification and authentication while protecting privacy by limiting the amount of information that individuals must disclose.[3]


The strategy was developed with input from private sector lobbyists, including organizations representing 18 business groups, 70 nonprofit and federal advisory groups, and comments and dialogue from the public.

The strategy had four guiding principles:[4]

  1. privacy-enhancing and voluntary
  2. secure and resilient
  3. interoperable
  4. cost-effective and easy to use.

The NSTIC described a vision compared to an ecosystem where individuals, businesses, and other organizations enjoy greater trust and security as they conduct sensitive transactions online. Technologies, policies, and agreed upon standards would securely support transactions ranging from anonymous to fully authenticated and from low to high value in such an imagined world. Implementation included three initiatives:

  • The Identity Ecosystem Steering Group (IDESG), the private sector-led organization developing the Identity Ecosystem Framework;[5]
  • Funding pilot projects that NSTIC said embrace and advance guiding principles;[6] and
  • The Federal Cloud Credential Exchange (FCCX),[7] the U.S. federal government service for government agencies to accept third-party issued credentials approved under the FICAM scheme.

NSTIC was announced during the Presidency of Barack Obama near the end of his first term on April 15, 2011.[1] A magazine article said individuals might validate their identities securely for sensitive transactions (such as banking or viewing health records) and let them stay anonymous when they are not (such as blogging or surfing the Web).[8]

In January 2011 the U.S. Department of Commerce had established a National Program Office (NPO), led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to help implement NSTIC.[9] To coordinate implementation activities of federal agencies, the NPO works with the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, originally Howard Schmidt[3] and then after 2012 Michael Daniel.[10]

Steering group[edit]

The NSTIC called a steering group led by the private sector to administer the development and adoption of its framework. This Identity Ecosystem Steering Group (IDESG) held a meeting in Chicago August 15–16, 2012.[11] The meeting brought together 195 members in person and 315 members remotely. Additional plenary meetings were in Phoenix, Arizona,[12] Santa Clara, California[13] and Boston, Massachusetts. Under a grant from 2012 through 2014, Trusted Federal Systems, Inc. was the group's administrative body.[14]


The federal government initiated and supported pilot programs. In 2012, NSTIC awarded $9 million to pilot projects in the first year. For example, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators was developing a demonstration of commercial identity provider credentials by the Virginia state government, including securely verifying identities online with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.[15] The Internet2 received about $1.8 million for research.[15] was given a two-year grant in 2013.[16]

Further work funded by NIST is on their Trusted Identities Group Web Page.[17]

Federal Cloud Credential Exchange[edit]

The NSTIC called for U.S. federal government agencies to be early adopters of the Identity Ecosystem envisioned in NSTIC.[7] Agencies struggled to implement it for services they provide internally and externally. Technical, policy and cost barriers made it challenging to accept third-party credential providers accredited by the Federal Identity, Credential, and Access Management (FICAM) initiative.[18]

In response, the White House created a Federal Cloud Credential Exchange (FCCX) team, co-chaired by NSTIC and the General Services Administration. The team consisted of representatives from agencies whose applications are accessed by a large population of external customers. In November 2012, the United States Postal Service was chosen to manage a pilot version of the FCCX, and awarded the contract to build it to SecureKey Technologies, a member of FIDO Alliance. That contract was renewed in May, 2015.[19][20][edit] was launched in December, 2014, the manifestation of this pilot. The first two companies to provide individual US citizens Identity Management services compatible with, were and Verizon.[21][22] Ping Identity and Forgerock were the first software platforms to provide FICAM-compliant credentials, and enable private sector organizations to connect securely to government agencies, a primary objective of this project.[23][24][edit]

On May 10, 2016, 18F announced in a blog entry that would be replaced.[25][26] The replacement system would be called[27] and launched in April 2017.[28]

Identity Ecosystem Steering Group[edit]

The Identity Ecosystem Steering Group (IDESG) received start up funding from NIST in 2010 and has since created a series of documents that is available on their web site.[29] In 2016, they introduced the Identity Ecosystem Framework (IDEF) Registry[30] for self-assessment.


The proposal generated criticism since it was released in draft form in June 2010.[3][31] Much centered around privacy implications of the proposal.

Shortly after the draft's release, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), with other consumer-rights and civil liberties organizations, sent the committee a statement in response to the draft NSTIC policy, requesting a clearer and more complete plan to create and safeguard Internet users' rights and privacy.[32] While EPIC head, Marc Rotenberg, called NSTIC "historic," he also cautioned that " identity is complex problem and the risk of 'cyber-identity theft' with consolidated identity systems is very real. The US will need to do more to protect online privacy."[33]

NSTIC addressed some early privacy concerns through its 2013 fair information practice principles document.[34] Subsequent initiatives sought to advance privacy. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation were involved in a privacy committee in the IDESG.


  1. ^ a b "Administration Releases Strategy to Protect Online Consumers and Support Innovation and Fact Sheet on National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace". Press release. Office of the White House. April 15, 2011. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  2. ^ "National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace" (PDF). April 14, 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Howard A. Schmidt (June 25, 2010). "The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace". Retrieved September 5, 2023 – via National Archives.
  4. ^ "Adherence to the NSTIC Guiding Principles | Identity Ecosystem Steering Group". Archived from the original on 2013-08-15. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  5. ^ "Identity Ecosystem Framework | Identity Ecosystem Steering Group". Archived from the original on 2013-06-29. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  6. ^ Boeckl, Kaitlin (29 April 2016). "Pilot projects & partners". Archived from the original on 2016-07-07.
  7. ^ a b "Putting the Fed in Federation: The U.S. Government as Early Adopter of the Identity Ecosystem - I Think, Therefore IAM".
  8. ^ Mat Honan (November 15, 2012). "Kill the Password - Why a String of Characters Can't Protect Us Anymore". Wired Gadget Lab. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  9. ^ "National Program Office Planned for Online Trusted Identity Strategy". Press release. NIST. January 19, 2011. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  10. ^ "Michael Daniel: Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator". Retrieved November 9, 2013 – via National Archives.
  11. ^ "Identity Ecosystem Steering Group | Created to administer the development of policy, standards, and accreditation processes for the Identity Ecosystem Framework". Archived from the original on 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  12. ^ "February 2013 Plenary | Identity Ecosystem Steering Group". Archived from the original on 2013-08-10. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  13. ^ "May 2013 Plenary | Identity Ecosystem Steering Group". Archived from the original on 2013-08-08. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  14. ^ "NSTIC Welcomes Trusted Federal Systems as Secretariat of the Identity Ecosystem Steering Group". NSTIC blog. July 12, 2012. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  15. ^ a b "Five Pilot Projects Receive Grants to Promote Online Security and Privacy". Press release. NIST. September 20, 2012. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  16. ^ "NSTIC,, Inc". National Institute of Standards and Technology. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  17. ^ "Trusted Identities Group". NIST.
  18. ^ "FICAM Roadmap and Implementation Guidance |". Archived from the original on 2013-08-19. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  19. ^ "SecureKey Technologies Wins Contract with U.S. Postal Service to Implement Federal Cloud Credential Exchange - SecureKey".
  20. ^ Fontana, John. "Connect.Gov solidifies, expands ID credential plan for federal agencies - ZDNet". ZDNet.
  21. ^ " is latest attempt to get buy-in to online ID management". 22 December 2014.
  22. ^ Overly, Steven (2014-12-05). "McLean-based wins contract to provide identity software for". Retrieved 2023-09-05.
  23. ^ Fontana, John (April 30, 2015). "Connect.Gov solidifies, expands ID credential plan for federal agencies". ZD Net. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  24. ^ Miller, Jason (December 22, 2014). " is latest attempt to get buy-in to online ID management". Federal News Radio. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  25. ^ "18F: Digital service delivery | Building a modern shared authentication platform". Retrieved 2017-07-02.
  26. ^ "Feds scrap Connect.Gov - SecureIDNews". SecureIDNews. Retrieved 2017-07-02.
  27. ^ "Login.Gov replacing Connect.Gov - SecureIDNews". SecureIDNews. Retrieved 2017-07-02.
  28. ^ "18F: Digital service delivery | Government launches to simplify access to public services". Retrieved 2018-02-16.
  29. ^ "The Identity Ecosystem Steering Group".
  30. ^ "Identity Ecosystem Framework (IDEF) Registry".
  31. ^ Lance Whitney (June 28, 2010). "White House drafting plan for cyberspace safety". CNet news. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  32. ^ Lillie Coney; et al. (September 23, 2010). "Statement on the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cybersecurity Creating Options for Enhanced Online Security and Privacy" (PDF). Privacy International and Electronic Privacy Information Center. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  33. ^ Center. "EPIC - National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC)".
  34. ^ "Appendix A – Fair Information Practice Principles" (PDF). NSTIC. April 4, 2013.

External links[edit]