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Homeland Security

Information Security: Advances and Remaining Challenges to Adoption of
Public Key Infrastructure Technology (Chapter Report, 02/26/2001,
GAO/GAO-01-277).
The federal government must overcome several major challenges before
public key infrastructure (PKI) technology can be widely and effectively
used. These challenges include providing interoperability among agency
PKIs, ensuring that PKI implementations can support a potential large
scale of users, reducing the cost of building PKI systems, setting
policies to maintain trust levels among agencies, and establishing
training programs for users at all levels.  Although such challenges are
difficult to overcome in the near term, the federal government can take
steps to better assist agencies at developing and implementing PKIs that
may eventually be interconnected into a federal governmentwide system.
The recent effort to develop a Federal Bridge Certification Authority
(FBCA) is an excellent first step in this direction, but this effort
lacks the context of a well-defined program plan for the government as
well as key policy and technical standards. Establishing a federal PKI
management framework could facilitate and accelerate participation in
the FBCA as well as overall federal adoption of key technology for
enabling electronic government.
--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------
 REPORTNUM:  GAO-01-277
     TITLE:  Information Security: Advances and Remaining Challenges to
	     Adoption of Public Key Infrastructure Technology
      DATE:  02/26/2001
   SUBJECT:  Information technology
	     Computer networks
	     Computer security
	     Electronic government
	     Information resources management
	     Data encryption
	     Electronic signatures
	     Interagency relations
	     Strategic information systems planning
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GAO-01-277
Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial
Management and Intergovernmental Relations, Committee on Government
Reform, House of Representatives
February 2001 INFORMATION SECURITY
Advances and Remaining Challenges to Adoption of Public Key Infrastructure
Technology
GAO- 01- 277
Letter 5 Executive Summary 6 Chapter 1
14 Background
The Adoption of Electronic Government May Be Slowed by Security Concerns 14
PKI Uses Advanced Cryptographic Techniques to Provide Its
Security Assurances 20 Digital Certificates and Certification Authorities
Link Public
Keys With Specific Users to Convey Trust 27 Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology 31
Chapter 2 33
The Federal Federal PKI Steering Committee Was Established to Oversee
Governmentwide PKI Efforts 33
Government Has Made The FPKISC Has Taken Steps to Link Individual Agency
PKIs Progress in Planning
Into a Federal PKI 34 and Coordinating PKI
GSA's ACES Program Is Designed to Foster PKI Use by Agencies 38 Independent
PKI Projects Are Under Way at Other Agencies 40
Initiatives Chapter 3
42 Full PKI
Interoperability Problems Make Broad Deployment Decisions Difficult 43
Implementation Faces
Most PKIs Have Been Limited to Pilot Projects or Specific Many Formidable
Applications 46 Challenges
Developing and Maintaining a PKI Can Be Expensive 48 Policy Issues Can Be
Difficult to Resolve 49 Organizationwide Training Will Be Vital to
Successful PKI
Implementation 50 Current Agency Initiatives Are Not Guided by a Federal PKI
Management Framework 52 Conclusions 55 Recommendations for Executive Action
56 Agency Comments and Our Evaluation 57
Appendixes Appendix I: Limitations of the Secure Sockets Layer Protocol 60
Appendix II: Certification Path Models for Building Large PKIs 62 Appendix
III: Comments From the Department of the Treasury 67 Appendix IV: Comments
From the General Services
Administration 68 Glossary 70 Related GAO Products 76 Tabl es Table 1: The
Advantages and Disadvantages of an Architecture 55 Figures Figure 1: Secret
Key Cryptography 21
Figure 2: Public Key Cryptography 23 Figure 3: Combination of Secret and
Public Key Cryptography
to Encrypt Large Files 24 Figure 4: Creating a Digital Signature 25 Figure
5: Verifying a Digital Signature 26 Figure 6: Basic Components of a PKI 28
Figure 7: FBCA Certification Path Model 36 Figure 8: FBCA Demonstration
Certification Path 37 Figure 9: Trust List Certification Path 62 Figure 10:
Hierarchical Model Certification Path 64 Figure 11: Mesh Architecture
Certification Path 65
Abbreviations
ACES Access Certificates for Electronic Services API application programming
interface CA certification authority CIO chief information officer DMS
Defense Message System DOD Department of Defense DOE Department of Energy
DTS Defense Travel System
ECA external certification authority FBCA Federal Bridge Certification
Authority FDIC Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation FPKISC Federal PKI
Steering Committee GITS Government Information Technology Services GSA
General Services Administration GTRI Georgia Tech Research Institute IETF
Internet Engineering Task Force IRS Internal Revenue Service IT information
technology NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration NIST National
Institute of Standards and Technology OMB Office of Management and Budget
PEBES Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement PIN personal
identification number PKI public key infrastructure SSA Social Security
Administration SSL secure sockets layer
Lett er
February 26, 2001 The Honorable Stephen Horn Chairman, Subcommittee on
Government Efficiency,
Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Government
Reform House of Representatives
Dear Mr. Chairman: This report responds to your request that we review the
federal government's public key infrastructure (PKI) strategy and
initiatives to assess the issues and challenges the government faces in
adopting this new technology. A PKI is a system of hardware, software,
policies, and people that, when fully and properly implemented, can provide
a suite of information security assurances that are important in protecting
sensitive communications and transactions. Specifically, we agreed to assess
(1) the progress of the federal government in planning and coordinating
federal PKI initiatives and
(2) remaining challenges to be overcome before PKI can be put into
widespread use. The report recommends that the Director of the Office of
Management and Budget take steps to improve the federal government's
planning for adoption of PKI technology.
We are sending copies of this report to Representative Dan Burton, Chairman,
and Representative Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Minority Member, House Committee
on Government Reform; and to Representative Janice D. Schakowsky, Ranking
Minority Member of your Subcommittee. We are also
sending a copy of this report to the Honorable Mitchell E. Daniels,
Director, Office of Management and Budget. This report will also be
available on GAO's home page at http:// www. gao. gov. If you have any
questions concerning this report, please call me at (202) 512- 6257 or send
e- mail to mcclured@ gao. gov. Other major contributors included John de
Ferrari, Steven Law, John C. Martin, and Jamelyn Smith. Sincerely yours,
David L. McClure Director, Information Technology Management Issues
Executive Summary Purpose The federal government is increasingly promoting
PKI technology for many electronic government applications. A PKI is a
system of hardware,
software, policies, and people that, when fully and properly implemented,
can provide a suite of information security assurances that are important in
protecting sensitive communications and transactions. Given the
importance of PKI as an enabler of electronic government, GAO agreed to
identify (1) the progress of the federal government in planning and
coordinating federal PKI initiatives and (2) remaining challenges to be
overcome before PKI can be put into widespread use.
Background Increasingly, federal agencies are using the World Wide Web and
other Internet- based applications to provide on- line public access to
information
and services as well as to improve internal business operations.
Congressional interest in the potential benefits of electronic and
Internetbased operations has resulted in the passage of laws designed to
encourage the deployment of electronic government functions. However, the
potential for improvements in service delivery and productivity come with
many of the security risks faced by existing systems as well as new risks.
In some cases, the sensitive information and communications that may be
involved
in these activities will require greater security assurances than can be
provided by simple security measures, such as requiring passwords to gain
access to a system. A PKI and its associated hardware, software, policies,
and people can provide these greater assurances. Some electronic government
functions, such as the dissemination of public information, probably do not
need such rigorous measures. However, many important communications and
transactions that involve sensitive personal and financial data cannot
safely be conducted through purely electronic means until the critical
security features such as those provided by PKI are enabled. The Chief
Information Officer (CIO) Council's Federal PKI Steering Committee (FPKISC)
and the General Services Administration (GSA) have been the chief promoters
of PKI technology in the federal government. Regarding overall direction on
governmentwide information
resources and technology management, the Office of Management and Budget
(OMB) is responsible for overseeing the efficiency and effectiveness of
interagency information technology initiatives and developing and overseeing
implementation of privacy and security policies, standards, and guidelines.
Results in Brief The Federal PKI Steering Committee, in conjunction with
GSA, has made progress in promoting the adoption of PKI by individual
agencies and in laying the groundwork for the future development of a
broader
governmentwide PKI. The committee has developed a mechanism, called the
Federal Bridge Certification Authority (FBCA), to connect disparate agency
PKI applications into a broader system. In addition, GSA is sponsoring a
program designed to develop and provide some of the
elements of an “off the shelf” PKI to individual agencies to
promote wider adoption of the technology. Several agencies- including the
Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Federal
Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA), and the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office- have
already implemented or are in the process of implementing PKI systems.
Although progress has been made in seeding PKI technology throughout the
government, designing and implementing large- scale systems that use PKI
technology remains a daunting task. Full- featured PKI
implementations- those that offer all of the security assurances needed for
sensitive communications and transactions- are not yet commonplace in either
the government or the private sector, and a number of substantial challenges
must be overcome before the technology can be widely and effectively
deployed.
? First, in order to develop an interoperable 1 governmentwide system,
agency PKIs will have to work seamlessly with each other, yet current PKI
products and implementations suffer from interoperability problems. ?
Second, because full- featured PKIs are rare, and those that exist are in
the early stages of implementation and use, it is not yet known how well
this technology will truly scale and interoperate as its use grows. ? Third,
adoption of the technology may be impeded by the high cost associated with
building a PKI and enabling software applications to use it. These costs can
easily add up to millions of dollars.
? Fourth, an effective PKI- at any level within the government- will require
well- defined policies and procedures for ensuring that an appropriate level
of security is maintained on an ongoing basis. Establishing such policies
will require resolution of a number of 1 Interoperability is the ability of
two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the
information that has been exchanged.
sensitive issues in areas such as privacy protection, encryption key
recovery, and how employees will be expected to identify themselves and
secure their electronic keys. ? Finally, as with any security technology,
the success of a PKI implementation will depend on how well people interact
with the system and how well the system is implemented. Thus, federal
agencies
will be faced with the challenge of training and involving both users and
system administrators in the adoption of a technology that many find complex
and difficult to understand.
A logical way to address the uncertainties and risks involved in adopting
PKI technology in the government is to establish and enforce a
governmentwide management framework to guide the development and deployment
of PKIs by federal agencies. Although the FPKISC has made efforts at a
grass- roots level to facilitate the eventual development of a
governmentwide PKI, it does not have the authority to define or require
adherence to a governmentwide management framework. Without such a
framework, agencies risk building and buying systems that are not
interoperable and thus may require costly, complex solutions to interact
with a governmentwide PKI. Principal Findings The Federal Government To
further the development and deployment of secure electronic Has Made
Progress in government, a number of public key technology initiatives have
begun at Planning and Coordinating the governmentwide level as well as at
individual agencies. FPKISC has PKI Initiatives
been working to broaden awareness of the benefits of PKI technology and to
promote coordination of PKI activities throughout the government. Most
notable is the FBCA, connecting agency PKI applications. A prototype
version has been constructed, and some of its key features have been
successfully tested. For example, the demonstration successfully validated
signature certifications through complex chains of certification
authorities, including some that were up to seven certification authorities
in length. Committee officials are confident that an operational version of
the bridge certification authority will function as planned. A production
version is under construction and is expected to be available for operation
in the
second quarter of fiscal year 2001. A managing body, the Federal PKI Policy
Authority, has recently been established to oversee and coordinate agency
involvement in the bridge certification authority.
GSA's program to provide free to agencies elements of an “off the
shelf” PKI for government transactions made directly with the general
public- called Access Certificates for Electronic Services (ACES)- has been
successful in jump- starting the effort. The Social Security Administration
and the Federal Emergency Management Administration are two agencies that
are planning to make use of ACES to build PKI technology into some of their
applications. Several other agencies- including DOD, DOE, FDIC, NASA, and
the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office- have already implemented or are in
the process of implementing PKI projects independently of the ACES program.
Full PKI Implementation Despite recent progress, designing and implementing
systems fully able to Faces Many Formidable utilize PKI technology within
the government remains a serious challenge.
Challenges Several significant issues must be addressed before the
technology can be widely and effectively deployed, including the following.
? Interoperability. In order to develop an interconnected governmentwide
system, agency PKIs will have to work seamlessly with each other, yet
current products and implementations suffer from significant
interoperability problems, largely because PKI is not yet wellestablished
and standards are not yet complete. Several different strategies will be
needed to solve this problem, including further refining existing standards,
adopting standard high- level interfaces-
commonly referred to as application programming interfaces 2 -and developing
mechanisms such as the FBCA, which acts as a bridge across disparate agency
systems. However, none of these solutions is easy or
can be adopted quickly. ? Operational experience. Government PKI
implementations that offer the
full range of security assurances that may be needed for sensitive
communications and transactions currently exist only in limited pilot
projects or within relatively small, well- defined communities. For example,
the Patent and Trademark Office's Electronic Patent Application Filing
System serves a relatively small population of patent attorneys. Because no
full- featured PKI has yet been implemented on a truly broad scale- such as
a major federal agency- many questions
2 An application programming interface is the point of interaction between
the application software and the application platform (i. e., operating
system), across which all services are provided.
remain about whether the products, which are currently available to
implement PKI, can meet the demands of widespread use. ? Affordability.
Although PKI's security features are critical to enabling many important
electronic government transactions and can be viewed
as an investment in providing security services for a wide range of
applications, adoption of PKI technology may be impeded by the high cost
associated with building a PKI and enabling software applications
to use it. Systems must be set up to carry out the technical functions of a
PKI, including positively identifying internal and external users,
generating keys, issuing them digital certificates, and managing the
exchange and verification of certificates. In addition, existing software
applications, electronic directories, and other legacy systems must be
modified so they can interact with the PKI. Further, outside vendors that
conduct electronic business with an agency will likely incur costs and
disruptions in making their own systems compatible. As a result, the total
costs associated with building a PKI and enabling applications to use it can
easily add up to millions of dollars.
? Well- defined and enforced policies and procedures. An effective PKI- at
any level within the government- will require a well- defined set of
policies and procedures for ensuring that the security of the system is
maintained on an ongoing basis. Establishing and enforcing these policies
and procedures will require resolution of a range of sensitive issues. For
example, because the digital certificates that PKI systems produce and
application programs use could also serve as a way to track individuals as
they conduct business throughout the federal government, measures will have
to be put in place to protect users' privacy. Further, procedures will have
to be developed stipulating how employees will be expected to identify
themselves and secure their electronic keys and what actions will be taken
when keys are lost or
destroyed. Developing, implementing, and enforcing a complete set of
policies and procedures is likely to require a substantial effort on the
part of each federal agency. ? Trained personnel. As with any security
technology, the success of a PKI
implementation will depend on how well people interact with the system and
how well the system is implemented. However, PKI technology in particular is
complex and difficult for many people to grasp. Even a well- designed and
well- implemented PKI will lose its effectiveness if users do not properly
safeguard their keys and do not understand the inherent vulnerabilities
associated with Web browsers, such as improperly accepting unverified
digital certificates.
To date, federal agencies have not been directed by any governmentwide
standards for developing and managing PKIs. Early agency PKI pilot projects
have been focused on narrow communities of interest and have not addressed
larger compatibility problems. A management framework
could help agencies address the many challenges involved in implementing PKI
technology. Several key guidance areas essential to a federal PKI management
framework are currently not well defined, including (1) a program plan
identifying roles and responsibilities at the governmentwide and agency
levels as well as general time frames and resources to develop, deploy, and
maintain a federal PKI, (2) policy standards to reduce implementation issues
and efforts spent by federal agencies to develop
unique PKI solutions, and (3) technical standards- a federal PKI
architecture- that can guide the development and integration of agency PKIs.
In order to provide more and better electronic services, the government
needs a management framework, including a federal PKI
architecture that specifies standard protocols and high- level application
programming interfaces (API) to provide better guidance and promote
interoperability among agencies' PKIs.
Recommendations for Given OMB's statutory responsibility to develop and
oversee policies, Executive Action
principles, standards, and guidelines used by agencies for ensuring the
security of federal information systems, we recommend that the Director, OMB
establish a governmentwide framework to provide agencies with direction for
implementing PKIs. In constructing this framework OMB
needs to develop federal PKI policy guidance and ensure (1) the development
and periodic review of technical guidance, (2) the preparation of a federal
PKI program plan, and (3) that agencies are adhering to federal PKI policy
and technical guidance. In implementing these recommendations, OMB should
work with other key federal organizations,
especially the CIO Council, FPKISC, and National Institute of Standards and
Technology, to ensure broad acceptance within the federal government.
Details of our recommendations are provided in the report.
Agency Comments and We received comments on a draft of this report from the
Branch Chief for
Our Evaluation Information Policy, Office of Information and Regulatory
Affairs, OMB;
Deputy Assistant Secretary (Information Systems) and Chief Information
Officer, Department of the Treasury; Associate Administrator, Office of
Governmentwide Policy, GSA; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Security
and Information Operations), DOD; and the Chairman of the
FPKISC. All of the agency officials who reviewed the draft agreed with the
overall content of the report. Officials from OMB and GSA were concerned
that our recommendations language would lead OMB to adopt an overly
prescriptive “how to” role in federal PKI implementation. In
response to
this concern, we have clarified the language outlining our recommendations
regarding OMB's role. We are recommending that OMB establish a general PKI
management framework to better facilitate the use of PKI technology, ensure
that agency PKI applications meet consistent levels of security, and reduce
the overall risk to the government of
developing disparate PKI implementations. In addition, each agency provided
technical comments, which have been addressed where appropriate in the final
report. Letters from GSA and Treasury are reprinted in appendixes III and
IV. Specific issues raised by reviewing agencies, along with our responses,
are discussed in chapter 3.
Chapt er 1
Background Increasingly, federal agencies are using the World Wide Web and
other Internet- based applications to provide on- line public access to
information and services as well as to improve internal business operations.
In some cases, the sensitive information and communications that may be
involved in these activities will require a range of security assurances.
Fully and properly implemented, a PKI is a system of hardware, software,
policies, and people that can provide these assurances. Some electronic
government
functions, such as the dissemination of public information, probably do not
need such rigorous measures. However, many important communications and
transactions that involve sensitive personal and financial data cannot
safely be conducted through purely electronic means until all of the
critical security features provided by PKI are enabled. The Adoption of
Electronic government- made possible by widespread Internet access and
Electronic Government
interconnected systems- has the potential to transform how the federal
government operates. Electronic government is being pursued to facilitate
May Be Slowed by interaction of citizens and businesses with their
government and improve Security Concerns
the efficiency and effectiveness of government through the application of
information technology (IT) resources. Electronic government can include
activities such as information collection and dissemination, funds and
benefits transfers, filings and applications, revenue collection, and
procurement of goods and services. For example, the Internal Revenue Service
(IRS), the Department of Education, and the Social Security Administration
(SSA) have applied electronic government techniques to
improve service delivery to taxpayers, students, and senior citizens,
respectively. Agencies such as DOD, NASA, and GSA have implemented online
procurement operations for several years. 1
Congressional interest in the potential benefits of electronic and
Internetbased operations has resulted in laws designed to encourage the
deployment of electronic government functions. For example, the ClingerCohen
Act of 1996 requires GSA to provide governmentwide on- line access to
information about products and services available under the multiple award
schedules program. The National Defense Authorization Act for
1 GAO products discussing electronic government issues include Electronic
Government: Government Paperwork Elimination Act Presents Challenges for
Agencies (GAO/ AIMD- 00- 282, September15, 2000) and Electronic Government:
Federal Initiatives Are Evolving Rapidly But They Face Significant
Challenges (GAO/ T- AIMD/ GGD- 00- 179, May 22, 2000).
Fiscal Year 1999 required DOD to establish a single, Defense- wide
electronic mall system for ordering supplies and materials. More broadly,
the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998 2 set a deadline of
October 2003 for agencies to develop capabilities to permit, where
practicable, electronic maintenance, submission, or disclosure of
information, including the use of electronic signatures. Further, the
Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act 3 provides, with
certain exceptions, a signature or contract may not be denied legal effect
solely because it is in electronic form.
The potential for improvements in service delivery and productivity offered
by electronic government also involves threats, risks, and liabilities.
Although the risks to electronic systems and the traditional systems they
are designed to replace may be similar, the levels of risk may be vastly
different. For example, electronic transactions lack the physical context of
traditional transactions and thus involve increased risk. A paper record of
a transaction can undergo forensic chemical analysis to determine whether it
has been altered; however, electronic records in many systems can be altered
without detection. Further, physical access is needed before a paper record
can be tampered with, and such access is inherently limited. On the other
hand, with the global reach of the Internet, electronic misuse and tampering
can occur more quickly and with far greater impact. Finally, human
participation is required on both sides of a paper- based transaction,
providing the opportunity for immediate human inspection and verification of
the transaction. In contrast, electronic systems may readily process
transactions that would be immediately suspicious to a human observer.
Unless special security features are properly implemented, electronic
transactions are much more susceptible to fraud and abuse than traditional
paper- based transactions.
In addition, electronic government transactions will have to take place in
an environment of persistent information security weaknesses. Known computer
and network vulnerabilities- as well as the automated attack tools needed to
exploit them- are increasingly being made publicly available, for example,
by being posted on the Internet. This offers potential attackers having only
limited technical skill and knowledge the 2 Government Paperwork Elimination
Act, Public Law 105- 277, October 21, 1998.
3 Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, Public Law 106-
229, June 30, 2000.
opportunity to cause a great deal of damage. Business risks such as fraud,
theft, and destruction of assets- along with legal issues such as liability
and the loss of reputation- are exacerbated by the openness of the Internet.
Stories in the press of hacker attacks, Web page defacements, and credit
card information posted on electronic bulletin boards have led to legitimate
concerns about conducting “real” business over the Internet.
Recent surveys indicate that security and privacy are top concerns among
world Internet users. 4 These concerns are not unjustified. In recent years
we have consistently found security weaknesses at many federal agencies,
some of which could place sensitive tax, medical, and other personal records
at risk of unauthorized disclosure. 5
Sensitive Transactions Face In recent years, valuable information about
government services and Special Challenges
activities has been increasingly available over the Internet. However,
expectations are that electronic government will include much more than just
the electronic distribution of information; it will also include the
application for and delivery of government services on- line. Many such
services involve sensitive personal information, which will need to be
exchanged electronically. Sensitive information and transactions may need
greater security assurances.
SSA's experience in attempting to make individuals' Personal Earnings and
Benefit Estimate Statements (PEBES) available on- line showed that extra
safeguards may be needed when sensitive personal information is at risk of
improper disclosure. In March 1997, SSA first made PEBES information
available over the Internet. PEBES provides individuals with detailed
information on their earnings by year, Social Security taxes paid, and an
estimate of future benefits. The statements had been available in hard copy
by mail in response to written requests for about 10 years. To protect the
new on- line program, SSA had taken several measures that officials believed
would adequately safeguard requesters' privacy, the system itself, and the
data it contained. However, just 1 month after the on- line program's
4 See Assessing E- Government: The Internet, Democracy, and Service Delivery
by State and Federal Governments, Darrell M. West, Brown University,
September 2000 and E- Government: The Next American Revolution, Hart- Teeter
for the Council for Excellence in Government, September 2000. 5 Federal
Information Security: Actions Needed to Address Widespread Weaknesses (GAO/
T/ AIMD- 00- 135, March 29, 2000) and Information Security: Serious and
Widespread Weaknesses Persist at Federal Agencies (GAO/ AIMD- 00- 295,
September 6, 2000).
implementation, concerns over the adequacy of the privacy safeguards had
sparked such public outcry that the Acting Commissioner of SSA was forced to
suspend it, although SSA reported that it had not received any allegations
of individuals fraudulently accessing the system. Concerns were raised that
potential wrongdoers could obtain this information surreptitiously and use
it to gain access electronically to an individual's private earnings and
benefits information. 6 Others were concerned that wrongdoers could use this
service to validate identifying information about
an individual that they had obtained from other sources. While citizens can
still request PEBES information on- line, the statements are again mailed
out in hard copy, taking up to 4 weeks for receipt.
Sensitive Transactions Will Transactions involving sensitive information,
such as PEBES statements, Likely Need the Full Range are likely to require
greater security assurances than can be had through
of Security Assurances simple security measures, such as requiring passwords
to gain access to a
Offered by PKI system. For any given application, federal agencies are
responsible for
determining the type of on- line transactions to be conducted over the
Internet and the security requirements needed to protect those transactions.
7 Examples of sensitive transactions include the filing of income tax forms
with the IRS, applications for student financial aid with the Department of
Education, and applications for loans with the Small Business
Administration. Many federal information security experts
believe that sensitive government transactions such as these cannot be
safely conducted through purely electronic means until a full range of
critical security features are enabled. According to the National Institute
of Standards and Technology (NIST), individuals or entities interacting with
federal agencies electronically where there is a need for a secure
transaction should have four kinds of security assurances. 8 ?
Identification and authentication is the assurance that the information
sender and the recipient will both be identified uniquely so that both 6 See
Social Security Administration: Internet Access to Personal Earnings and
Benefits Information (GAO/ T- AIMD/ HEHS- 97- 123, May 6, 1997). 7 OMB
Memorandum M- 00- 10, OMB Procedures and Guidance on Implementing the
Government Paperwork Elimination Act, April 25, 2000. 8 Federal Agency Use
of Public Key Technology for Digital Signatures and Authentication (NIST
Special Publication 800- 25, September 2000).
parties know where the information is coming from and where it is going. ?
Confidentiality, or privacy, is the assurance that the information will be
protected from unauthorized access. ? Data integrity is the assurance that
data have not been accidentally or
deliberately altered. ? Nonrepudiation provides proof of the integrity and
origin of data that
can be verified by a third party. Nonrepudiation services may provide
important legal evidence in the event of a dispute. Most security techniques
in common use today provide only a subset of these security features. For
example, traditional user identification and passwords/ personal
identification numbers (PIN) only provide for user authentication. By
entering a user name and then a password or PIN when beginning a
transaction, a user “proves” his or her identity to the system,
because only the legitimate user should know the correct password/ PIN. The
system can then determine what types of transactions that user is authorized
to make. 9
However, for many sensitive government transactions, this level of security
is not enough to satisfy the needs of either the end user or the government
agency involved. Users may also want assurance that they are indeed
connected to the particular agency they wish to do business with
(authentication of the recipient of the data as well as the sender).
Furthermore, both parties to the potential transaction may want assurance
that the amount and other details of the transaction will be kept private
(confidentiality) and will not be altered, either accidentally or otherwise,
as the transaction is being processed (data integrity). And finally, they
may want some kind of irrefutable electronic “receipt” to prove
that the
transaction was actually submitted by the end user and received by the
government (nonrepudiation).
Fully and properly implemented, PKI can provide these types of assurances so
that sensitive transactions can be adequately secured. Given that passwords
and PINs are inadequate in this situation, PKI technology 9 Although
passwords and PINs are designed to provide this safeguard, in practice we
have found that the controls over these systems are often compromised. For a
recent example, see Financial Management Service: Significant Weaknesses in
Computer Controls (GAO/ AIMD- 00- 305, September 26, 2000).
represents one possible solution. The various technical features of PKI that
can provide security assurances are discussed further in this chapter.
Commonly available commercial Web browsers (such as Microsoft's Internet
Explorer and America Online's Netscape Communicator) make use of only some
of the technical features of PKI to provide security for Web- enabled
transactions. They invoke a standardized information
exchange protocol known as secure sockets layer (SSL), which uses PKIlike
features to provide a limited form of authentication between a user
application, such as a Web browser, and a server. In addition, many Webbased
merchants use SSL to provide confidentiality for customer purchase
information as it traverses the Internet. However, the full range of
security assurances that may be needed for sensitive transactions is not
available through SSL, unless the user's software is specially configured or
modified.
As it is commonly used, SSL does not provide full authentication of both
sender and recipient, nor does it provide for nonrepudiation of a
transaction. Thus it is not an answer to all of the government's needs in
securing sensitive electronic transactions. (See appendix I for a discussion
of the limitations of SSL.) On the other hand, an effective full- featured
PKI
is a practical option available to satisfactorily address all of the
security assurances that may be needed for these transactions. Again, the
entity developing the PKI is responsible for determining the security
requirements needed to conduct and protect on- line transactions. OMB is
responsible for providing direction on governmentwide information resources
and technology management and overseeing agency activities in these areas.
These responsibilities include assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of
interagency IT initiatives. OMB is also responsible for developing and
overseeing implementation of privacy and security policies, principles,
standards, and guidelines. OMB has identified
various categories of transactions that could require the security
assurances provided by a PKI. 10 ? Transactions involving the transfer of
funds. Examples include
Department of Veterans Affairs and SSA claims and benefits. ? Transactions
in which parties commit to actions or contracts that may
give rise to financial or legal liability. Examples include student loans
and procurement contracts. 10 OMB Memorandum M- 00- 10, OMB Procedures and
Guidance on Implementing the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, April 25,
2000, pages 19- 20.
? Transactions involving information protected under the Privacy Act or
other agency- specific statutes, or information with national security
sensitivity, obliging that access to the information be restricted. Examples
include applications for passports and communications within DOD, the
Department of State, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. ? Transactions
in which the party is fulfilling a legal responsibility that, if not
performed, creates a legal liability. Examples include selective
service registration, environmental reporting to the Environmental
Protection Agency, and regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange
Commission. According to OMB guidance, not all transactions that fall into
these categories will necessarily need the full range of PKI security
services. Agencies will need to conduct risk assessments of systems to
determine the level of protection most appropriate for each. The CIO
Council's Federal PKI Steering Committee (FPKISC) is the federal
government's
focal point for adoption of PKI technology. Through NIST, the committee can
provide technical assistance to agencies considering implementing PKI. GSA
has also been a promoter of PKI technology for the federal government
through its Access Certificates for Electronic Services (ACES)
program. PKI Uses Advanced
The basis of PKI's security assurances is a sophisticated cryptographic
Cryptographic technique known as public key cryptography. PKIs use
cryptographic techniques to generate and manage electronic
“certificates,” which link an Techniques to Provide
individual or entity to a given public key. These certificates are then used
to Its Security Assurances verify digital signatures (providing
authentication and data integrity) and facilitate data encryption (providing
confidentiality). A properly designed and implemented PKI can also be used
to ensure that a given digital signature is still properly linked to the
individual or entity associated with it (providing nonrepudiation).
Cryptography is the transformation of ordinary data (commonly referred to as
“plaintext”) into a code form (ciphertext) and back into
plaintext using a special value known as a key and a mathematical process
called an algorithm. Cryptography can be used on data to (1) hide their
information content, (2) prevent their undetected modification, and/ or (3)
prevent their unauthorized use. A basic premise in cryptography is that good
systems depend only on the secrecy of the key used to perform the operations
rather than any attempt to keep the algorithm secret. The algorithms used
to perform most cryptographic operations over the Internet are well known;
however, because the keys used by these algorithms are kept secret, the
process is considered secure. Cryptographic techniques can be divided into
two basic types: secret key and public key cryptography. Properly
implemented cryptographic systems can provide assurance regarding the
origin, integrity, and confidentiality of the information that has been
exchanged, and provide a method by which the authenticity of the document
can be confirmed.
Secret Key Cryptography Traditionally, the techniques of secret key
cryptography have been used
Has Limitations When Used primarily to provide confidentiality. In secret
key cryptography (also called
for Large Groups of People symmetric key cryptography), one key is used to
perform both the
With No Preexisting encryption and decryption functions. (See figure 1.) The
encrypted Relationship
message can be freely sent from one location to another through an insecure
medium, such as the Internet or a telephone link. As the name implies,
secret key cryptography relies on both parties keeping the key
secret. If this key is compromised, the security offered by the encryption
process is eliminated.
Figure 1: Secret Key Cryptography
Secret key Document Encrypt Decrypt Document
Internet Source: Department of Defense.
Secret key cryptography has significant limitations that can make it
impractical as a stand- alone solution for securing electronic transactions,
especially among large communities of users that may have no preestablished
relationships. The most significant limitation is that some means must be
devised to securely distribute and manage the keys that are at the heart of
the system, commonly referred to as key management. When
many transacting parties are involved, this results in immense logistical
problems and delays. Furthermore, in order to minimize the damage that could
be caused by a compromised key, the keys may need to be short- lived and
therefore frequently changed, adding to the logistical complexity.
Public Key Cryptography In contrast, public key cryptography (commonly
referred to as asymmetric Addresses Many of These
cryptography) uses two different keys- a public key and a private key. The
Limitations two keys are generated by hardware such as a smart card,
software on the user's computer, or provided to the user by a trusted
entity. The user keeps one of the keys secret, and the other is made
publicly available to other users. The security of the arrangement is based
on the fact that knowing the public key does not allow one to know the
private key. The two keys are mathematically related so that given the
public key, it is computationally infeasible to derive the private key
because of the large
values used. Key lengths typically range from 512 11 to 1, 024 bits, 12 but
are likely to grow longer with time.
Suppose a fictional character named Bob has generated his two keys and that
he wants other people (or computers) to be able to send encrypted
information to him. Bob makes his public key easily accessible by adding it
to an on- line database in a manner that irrefutably links the key to his
identity. People wishing to send encrypted information to Bob then retrieve
his public key and use it to encrypt the information for him. 13 Bob is the
only one who can read the information because only his private key is
capable of decrypting the message. Of course, Bob must keep his private key
well hidden or others will also be able to decrypt information intended for
him. In this example, fictional character Alice would encrypt her message to
Bob with Bob's freely disclosed public key, which she obtained from an on-
line directory of public keys. Bob, in turn, would use his unique private
key to decrypt the message. In this way, the confidentially of the message
is ensured, as Alice knows that only Bob has the appropriate key
11 Although there are implementations that generate 512- bits keys for
digital signatures, those keys do not provide adequate long- term security.
Therefore, keys for digital signatures that will be used for long periods of
time should be at least 1,024- bits long. 12 Digital Signature Standard
(DSS) (NIST Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 186- 2,
January 27, 2000). 13 Most public key cryptographic methods can be used for
both encryption and digital signatures. However, certain public key methods,
most notably the Digital Signature Algorithm, cannot be used for encryption,
but only for digital signatures.
to decrypt and read the message. Figure 2 illustrates the basic process of
public key cryptography.
Figure 2: Public Key Cryptography Alice Encrypted
Bob
Alice encrypts
document using


Bob receives
Bob's public key encrypted

document over

the Internet

and applies

his private key

to decrypt document
Source: Department of Defense.
Public key cryptography can address many of the limitations of secret key
cryptography regarding key management. There is no need to establish a
secure channel or physical delivery services to distribute keys. However,
public key cryptography has its own challenges involving the methods of
ensuring that the links between the users and their public keys are
initially
valid and are constantly maintained, as will be subsequently discussed.
Combining Secret and
As just described, a sender can provide confidentiality for a message by
Public Key Cryptography
encrypting it with the recipient's publicly available encryption key using
Provides Added Benefits
some public key algorithms. However, for large messages, this is
computationally time- consuming and could make the whole process
unreasonably slow. To solve these problems, it can be better to combine
secret and public key cryptography to provide more efficient and effective
means by which a sender can encrypt a document so that only the intended
recipient can decrypt it. In this case, Alice would generate a one- time
secret encryption key (called a “session key”) and use it to
encrypt the body of her message. Alice would then take Bob's public key,
encrypt the one- time
session key with that public key, and send him the encrypted session key
plus the encrypted document. Bob, in turn, would apply his private key to
decrypt the secret session key, then use that session key to decrypt the
document itself. A diagram of this process is shown in figure 3. 14
Figure 3: Combination of Secret and Public Key Cryptography to Encrypt Large
Files Alice
Bob's public
Bob
encryption key Receives
is applied encrypted files
Creates Bob's private key
one- time secret Encrypted
Encrypted is applied to decrypt encryption key
session key (session key)
session key session key
session key Then session key Then Alice
is used to decrypt
encrypts Encrypted
Encrypted document
document
using
session
 
key
 
 
 
 


 
Digital Signatures Are Based Public key cryptography can also be used to
create a digital signature for a
on Public Key Cryptography message or transaction, thereby providing
authentication, data integrity, and nonrepudiation. For example, if Bob
wishes to digitally sign an
electronic document, he can use his private key to encrypt it. His public
key is freely available, so anyone with access to his public key can decrypt
the document. Although this seems backward, since anyone can read what is
encrypted, the fact that Bob's private key is held only by Bob provides the
basis for Bob's digital signature. If Alice can successfully decrypt the
document using Bob's public key, then she knows that the message came 14
Most public key cryptographic methods can be used to combine secret and
public keys for encryption. However, as discussed in footnote 13, certain
public key methods, most notably the Digital Signature Algorithm, do not
support this process.
from Bob, since only he has access to the corresponding private key. Of
course, this assumes that (1) Bob has sole control over his private signing
key and (2) Alice is sure that the public key used to validate Bob's
messages really belongs to Bob.
Digital signature systems use a two- step process, as shown in figure 4. As
noted, public key cryptography is not used for encrypting large amounts of
data for performance reasons. Therefore, a means is needed to reduce the
amount of data that needs to be encrypted. This is accomplished by using a
hash algorithm that condenses the data into a message digest. The message
digest is encrypted using Bob's private signing key to create a digital
signature. Because the message digest will be different for each signature,
each signature will also be unique and, using a good hash algorithm, it is
computationally infeasible to find another message that will generate the
same message digest.
Figure 4: Creating a Digital Signature Bob
Document to Final signed
be signed document
contains the
original with the
encrypted hash
attached
Bob's private
key
is applied
Hash algorithm applied
Encrypted Encrypted Message
Message Message
digest digest
digest Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Alice (or anyone wishing to verify the document) can compute the message
digest of the document and decrypt the signature using Bob's public key, as
shown in figure 5. Assuming that the message digests match, Alice then has
three kinds of security assurance. First, that Bob actually signed the
document (authentication). Second, the digital signature ensures that Bob in
fact sent the message (nonrepudiation). And third, since the message digest
would have changed if anything in the message had been modified, Alice knows
that no one tampered with the contents of the document after Bob signed it
(data integrity). Again, this assumes that (1) Bob has sole control over his
private signing key and (2) Alice is sure that the public key used to
validate Bob's messages really belongs to Bob.
Figure 5: Verifying a Digital Signature
Signed document
Alice
Hash algorithm
applied to plain text Message
digest
Do they match?
Bob's public Encrypted
key used Message
Message to decrypt
digest digest Encrypted
Message digest
Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Two Sets of Key Pairs are Within an organizational setting, the security
system needs to generate
Needed to Support separate key pairs for encryption and for digital
signatures. A copy of the Encryption and Digital user's private encryption
key should normally be copied to a safe backup
Signatures location in case the organization has a need to gain access to
encrypted
data in situations in which the user's original private encryption key is
inaccessible. For example, the organization would have an interest in
decrypting data should the private key be destroyed or lost or if the user
were fired, incapacitated, or deceased. However, copies should never be made
of the private keys used for digital signatures and nonrepudiation, as they
could fall into the wrong hands and be used to forge the owner's signatures.
In the event that a user loses, breaks, or destroys his private
signature key, or forgets how to access it, a new signing key pair can be
generated for use from that point forward with minimal impact. Although any
subsequent documents signed with the new private signature key must be
verified with the new public signature key, previously signed documents can
still be verified with the user's old public signature key.
Digital Certificates and In a small community where everyone knows everyone
else, users can
Certification individually give their public keys to the people with whom
they wish to
deal. In a large- scale implementation, where it is necessary for
individuals Authorities Link Public or entities that may not know each other
to conduct transactions, it is Keys With Specific impractical and
unrealistic to expect that each user will have previously Users to Convey
Trust established relationships with all of the other potential users in
order to obtain their public keys. One way around this problem is for all
PKI users and relying entities to mutually agree to trust a third party who
is known to
everyone. The basic technical components for achieving third- party trust
include (1) digital certificates, which link an individual to his or her
public key, (2) certification authorities, which create these certificates
and vouch for their validity to the entities relying on the PKI, (3)
registration authorities, which are in charge of verifying user identities
so that the appropriate key pairs and digital certificates can be created,
and
(4) certification paths, which are used for recognizing and trusting digital
certificates issued by other PKIs in order to create larger, connected
networks of trust. A set of written policies establishes the security
assurances that an organization needs to achieve and the practices and
procedures that will be followed to achieve and maintain those assurances.
Figure 6 shows the various components of a PKI, each of which will be
discussed in more detail.
Figure 6: Basic Components of a PKI


Certificates and A digital certificate is an electronic credential that
guarantees the
Certification Authorities Are association between a public key and a
specific entity. 15 It is created by the Technical Mechanisms
placing the entity's name, the entity's public key, and certain other for
Conveying Trust in a PKI
identifying information in a small electronic document that is stored in a
directory or other database. Directories may be publicly available
repositories kept on servers that act like telephone books for users to look
up others' public keys. The digital certificate itself is created by a
trusted
15 Certificates can be issued to computer equipment and processes as well as
to individuals. For example, companies that do a lot of business over the
Internet obtain digital certificates for their computer servers. These
certificates are used to authenticate the servers to potential customers,
who can then rely on the servers to support the secure exchange of encrypted
information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
third party called a certification authority, which digitally signs the
certificate, thus providing assurance that the public key contained in the
certificate does indeed belong to the individual named in the certificate.
A certification authority is responsible for managing digital certificates.
The purpose of the certification authority is to oversee the generation,
distribution, renewal, revocation, and suspension of digital certificates.
The certification authority may set restrictions on a certificate, such as
the
starting date for which the certificate is valid as well as its expiration
date. It is at times necessary to revoke digital certificates before their
established expiration dates, for example when the certificate- holder
leaves the issuing organization or when the private key is compromised.
Therefore, the certification authority is also responsible for providing
certificate status information and may publish a certificate revocation list
in a directory or maintain an on- line status- checking mechanism. The PKI
software in the
user's computer can verify that the certificate is valid by first verifying
that the certificate has not expired and then by assuring that it has not
been revoked or suspended. Before the certification authority can issue a
certificate to a user, it must verify the user's identity in accordance with
the organization's preset policies. In some cases, the certification
authority is set up to perform the
identification and authentication of users by itself, but often this
function is delegated to separate entities called registration authorities.
A user's identity is verified through one of two means, based on the level
of security that is deemed necessary by the organization. In the first
method, the user would need to appear in person at the registration
authority and present identity documents such as a birth certificate or
passport. A second, less secure method, involves the confirmation of a
shared secret through an online application. For example, the user could
verify his identity by confirming something that the agency already knows
about him but which is not common knowledge, such as tax return information.
After verifying the user's identity, the registration authority creates a
unique user name.
This unique name, which may include the user's given name, ensures that
people who rely on the certificate can distinguish between several
individuals with similar given names, much like an e- mail address. The
certification authority then creates the certificate that irrevocably links
that unique name to the user's public key. Registration authorities focus on
identifying and authenticating users; they do not sign or issue digital
certificates. However, the registration authority is required to comply with
preset standards for verifying a person's identity.
Because registration of large numbers of people in person can be expensive,
in some situations an organization may determine that a less expensive
registration process is adequate, even though the result would
be a somewhat lower assurance of correct authentication. Regardless, a
critical link in any PKI is the binding process used to associate the user
with his or her public key. PKIs implemented by separate organizations, such
as individual federal agencies, can be combined to create a larger
interconnected system, such as a governmentwide, national, or international
PKI. To do this, entities within each component system need a way to
reliably establish an electronic path to the certification authorities that
generate digital certificates for users within the other component systems.
There are three major approaches, or certification path models, for doing
this. First, the trust list method relies on all components accepting a
specific list of trusted certification authorities. This approach is used by
Web browsers. Second is the hierarchical model, in which a single
“root” certification
authority issues certificates to subordinate certification authorities
located in each component system. Third is a mesh architecture, in which
nonhierarchical links are established among certification authorities in
separate components that are not subordinated to each other. For a
complete discussion of these three different certification path models, see
appendix II. Implementation Policies Organizations may choose varying levels
of trust for different kinds of Establish Trust Levels for transactions or
other electronic functions. As noted, one organization may PKIs
require users to register for their digital certificates by visiting the
registration authority in person, while another may allow users to register
by providing identifying information on- line. One organization may require
that users protect their digital certificates with a more secure hardware
device, such as smart cards, while another may be satisfied with a less
secure software storage device. One organization may require that the
digital certificate itself contain certain information that limits the size
and scope of the electronic transaction, while another may not put any
limits on the use of the certificate. Each agency will have to develop its
own implementation policies to meet the requirements of its particular
business model for electronic transactions using PKI, and set forth in its
implementation policies what types of certificates it will issue or accept.
Two documents, called the certificate policy and the certification practices
statement, are usually employed to provide these policies.
The certificate policy is a set of rules governing the intended use of
certificates and the level of trust that a particular PKI will support. It
contains items such as the obligations of the certification authority, its
liabilities and warranties, confidentiality policy, identification and
authentication requirements, and details of what information will be
contained in the certificates. The certificate policy provides the criteria
that can be used by others to determine whether to trust certificates issued
by the certification authority and is also the basis for accreditation of
the certification authority.
The second document, called a certification practices statement, contains a
more detailed description of the mechanics followed by a certification
authority in issuing and otherwise managing certificates. It outlines the
procedures used to implement the policies with regard to certificate
issuance, user identification and registration, certificate lifetimes and
revocation, and publishing practices for certificates and certificate
revocation lists. It also states the operational practices followed by the
certification authority to ensure security. The certification practices
statement is used to outline operational procedures for the certification
authority's personnel and also provides additional information to the
relying party.
Objectives, Scope, and Our objectives were to assess (1) the progress of the
federal government in Methodology
planning and coordinating federal PKI initiatives and (2) the remaining
challenges to be overcome before PKI can be put into widespread use.
As background, we reviewed laws affecting federal PKI, such as the
Government Paperwork Elimination Act (Public Law 105- 277, October 21, 1998)
and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (Public
Law 106- 229, June 30, 2000). We also reviewed related policy and guidance,
including OMB Procedures and Guidance on Implementing the Government
Paperwork Elimination Act (OMB Memorandum M- 00- 10, April 25, 2000);
Federal Agency Use of Public Key Technology for Digital Signatures and
Authentication (NIST Special Publication 800- 25,
September 2000); Guideline for Implementing Cryptography in the Federal
Government (NIST Special Publication 800- 21, November 1999); and Legal
Considerations in Designing and Implementing Electronic Processes: A Guide
for Federal Agencies (Department of Justice, November 2000).
To evaluate what progress has been achieved on a governmentwide basis in
planning and coordinating federal PKI initiatives, we reviewed
documentation and held discussions with representatives of the FPKISC of the
CIO Council. The FPKISC is responsible for assisting agencies in their
selection and use of PKI, including supporting interagency interoperability
through the FBCA, which the FPKISC has sponsored. We reviewed FPKISC
documentation regarding agencies' independent PKI projects and discussed
them with FPKISC representatives. We also reviewed documentation and held
discussions with GSA officials who are
implementing the ACES program. Discussions with, and documents from, the
FPKISC and GSA also formed the basis for how we assessed what challenges
remain to be overcome in implementing PKI throughout the government. To
achieve this objective we also interviewed personnel at DOD, which is
implementing various PKI projects, and reviewed major pieces of its PKI
documentation. In addition,
we reviewed documentation on PKI prepared by technical experts, including
the FPKISC Technical Working Group that is chaired by the NIST, and other
organizations such as the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Giga
Information Group, and the Open Group.
We performed our audit work from April 2000 through November 2000, in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. We
requested and received comments on a draft of this report from OMB, GSA,
DOD, the Chairman of the FPKISC, and Treasury. Letters from GSA and Treasury
are reprinted in appendixes III and IV. Specific issues raised by reviewing
agencies, along with our responses, are discussed in chapter 3.
The Federal Government Has Made Progress
Chapt er 2
in Planning and Coordinating PKI Initiatives To further the development and
deployment of secure electronic government, a number of public key
technology initiatives have been started governmentwide as well as at
individual agencies. The Federal Public Key Infrastructure Steering
Committee (FPKISC) has been working to broaden awareness of the benefits of
PKI technology and to promote coordination of PKI activities throughout the
federal government. Most notably, the committee has developed a mechanism,
the Federal Bridge
Certification Authority (FBCA), to connect disparate agency PKI applications
into a broader network. A prototype bridge authority has been constructed,
with some of its functions already successfully tested. The Federal PKI
Policy Authority will oversee and coordinate agency involvement with the
bridge authority. A production version of the FBCA is under construction and
is expected to be available for operation in the
second quarter of fiscal year 2001. In addition, the GSA's Access
Certificates for Electronic Services (ACES) program is available to help
agencies with some elements of an “off the shelf” PKI, to
promote wider adoption of the technology. SSA and the Federal Emergency
Management Administration, among others, are
planning to make use of ACES to build PKI technology into some of their
applications. Several other agencies- including DOD, DOE, FDIC, NASA, and
the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office- have already implemented or are in
the process of implementing PKI projects independently of ACES.
Federal PKI Steering The FPKISC was established in 1996 to centralize
coordination and
oversight of federal PKI activities. The committee is overseen by the CIO
Committee Was
Council, 1 which is the principal interagency forum for improving practices
Established to Oversee in the design, modernization, use, sharing, and
performance of federal Governmentwide PKI government agency information
resources. The CIO Council's mission is to
Efforts promote change through consensus building and recommendations; it
does
not control agency decision- making processes or funding. Similarly, the
FPKISC does not have the authority to compel agencies to adopt a particular
PKI strategy but instead works to gain broad consensus on 1 Originally the
FPKISC was under the Government Information Technology Services (GITS)
Board, which was established and co- chaired by OMB and the National
Partnership for Reinventing Government. Because of the need to consolidate
information technology improvement initiatives, the GITS Board, in February
2000, proposed to the CIO Council that its initiatives be incorporated into
the council's activities, which the council endorsed. As a result, the board
was dissolved in April 2000 and its initiatives, including those of the
FPKISC, were folded into the federal CIO Council.
issues regarding the potential development of a federal PKI. As of December
2000, FPKISC membership consisted of 113 individuals from 27 agencies, two
states, two government- chartered corporations, and one university.
The FPKISC's stated goal is to promote interoperable PKI solutions within
the federal government, the development of common guidance, and the sharing
of information so that agencies considering or deploying PKI solutions can
benefit from those that have already done so. An example of the FPKISC's
efforts to develop common guidance is the committee's recent assistance to
OMB in drafting guidelines for implementing the Government Paperwork
Elimination Act. Most of the committee's work is carried out by three
working groups devoted to legal and policy issues,
business issues, and technical issues, respectively. Through monthly
meetings of the steering committee and its working groups, the FPKISC
provides a forum through which agency representatives can learn about what
other agencies are doing, share experiences, and ask for assistance.
Administration of the FPKISC's activities has been overseen by a chair and
four staff members- two detailees from the National Security Agency, one
detailee from SSA, and one contract employee. The salaries of the chair and
the contract employee are paid from funds set aside for the Key Recovery
Demonstration Project, which was provided by the National Security Agency
and other agencies, and is administered through the Department of the
Treasury. For fiscal year 2001, staffing of the FPKISC has declined to one
chair and two staff members- one agency detailee and one contract employee.
FPKISC officials, acting through the CIO Council, have requested about $500,
000 for fiscal year 2001. However, if the number of agencies or other
parties applying for participation with the FBCA
increases, the need for resources to review those applications may also
grow, as will the need for resources to perform additional administrative
functions, such as notifications and postings.
The FPKISC Has Taken The FPKISC has worked to develop a mechanism to link
individual agency
Steps to Link PKIs into a single federal structure. Originally the FPKISC
advocated a
hierarchical certification path model with a single root federal
certification Individual Agency PKIs
authority that would issue certificates to all federal agencies, which would
Into a Federal PKI
in turn issue certificates to their subordinate offices and divisions and,
finally, to their employees, trading partners, and members of the public.
This is the approach currently being implemented by the Government of
Canada. 2 However, a number of PKI initiatives had already begun in various
agencies of the government, and the FPKISC did not have the authority to
direct a governmentwide, top- down approach for PKI. In the committee's
view, too many agencies had independently begun to test their own individual
PKI applications, and too many vendors had introduced disparate products and
services to the marketplace. As a result, the committee began working on a
looser structure that would attempt to meld disparate individual agency PKI
projects, supported by a variety of commercial vendors, into a broad,
interoperable network.
The keystone of the FPKISC's approach is the FBCA, shown in figure 7. With
the creation of the FBCA, the federal government has taken an important
first step in the development of a federal PKI. The FBCA is designed to
facilitate certificate validation and cross- certification among both
federal and nonfederal certification authorities, including state and local
government agencies and the private sector.
2 For additional information, see Government of Canada, Communications
Security Establishment, Government of Canada Public Key Infrastructure White
Paper, February 1998.
Figure 7: FBCA Certification Path Model
FBCA Nonfederal CAs
Federal CAs Key = Bridge certification authority = Principal certification
authority = Peer certification authority = Subordinate certification
authority
= Bridge cross certificate pair = Cross certificate pair = Certification
authority certificate
Source: Federal Public Key Infrastructure Steering Committee. A prototype
FBCA was tested in April 2000 at the annual conference of the Electronic
Messaging Association. The prototype demonstrated digital signature
certificate interoperability on several levels- between five different
certification authority products, five different directories, and two
different e- mail applications. (See figure 8.) The organizations that
participated were the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NASA,
the National Security Agency, the Georgia Tech Research Institute
(GTRI), and the Government of Canada. According to the chairman of the
FPKISC, the demonstration successfully validated signature certifications
through complex chains of certification authorities, including some that
were up to seven certification authorities in length.
Figure 8: FBCA Demonstration Certification Path
GSA NIST 2 Canada FBCA CA 1 CA 2
NIST 1 GTRI
NASA DOD/ NSA bridge
certification authority Entity 1 Entity 2
Entity 3 Key = Principal certification authority = Peer certification
authority = Subordinate certification authority = User application
Source: Federal Public Key Infrastructure Steering Committee.
A primary function of the FBCA will be to attempt to reconcile the varying
trust levels that agencies will inevitably establish for their different
PKIs. An agency that has developed a PKI to help protect a very sensitive
function will not want to connect to the federal PKI unless it can be
assured that any external certificates it accepts also meet the same strict
assurance requirements that it has established internally. Otherwise, the
security of its system could be compromised simply because another
interconnected agency has not maintained adequate internal security policies
and
procedures. However, not all agencies will likely require the same trust
levels for all their applications. Agencies who have less stringent security
needs may set lower trust levels for their PKIs because it will likely be
less expensive for them to do so. For this reason, varying trust levels
among
agencies is probably unavoidable, and procedures are required to ensure that
each component PKI accepts only the proper kind of certificates. The FBCA is
taking steps to address this and other issues that arise when attempting to
interconnect disparate agency PKIs. When processing certificates, the FBCA
will provide information on each certificate's trust level, as well as
verifying its source and status, so that the receiving agency's PKI can
determine whether the certificate meets its requirements. To perform this
function, a set of standard trust levels has been set for the FBCA, and a
Federal PKI Policy Authority has been established to correlate each
participating agency PKI's trust level with one of the FBCA's standard
levels. For each of its standard trust levels, the policy authority will
establish guidelines for operating certification authorities and procedures
for monitoring compliance with those guidelines, such as annual compliance
audits, to ensure that the certification authorities continue to maintain
the advertised trust levels. Agencies will also be required to meet
additional interoperability requirements, such as compliance with the
federal certificate profile, which specifies how digital certificates should
be constructed.
GSA's ACES Program Is GSA has also worked to promote federal agency adoption
of PKI Designed to Foster PKI
technology. Its Office of Information Security built the prototype FBCA and
is expected to build and manage the operational version. Additionally, since
Use by Agencies
1996, GSA's Federal Technology Service has sponsored a separate program
designed to develop and provide some of the elements of an “off the
shelf” PKI to individual agencies to promote wider adoption of the
technology. As
stated, the ACES project is focused on government transactions made directly
with the general public.
The intent of ACES is to provide public key certificates to individual
citizens to use when accessing and submitting information electronically
with the government. GSA expects that ACES will provide an expandable
foundation that will be collectively used by federal agencies, thus
stimulating the widespread use of a uniform PKI, promoting interoperability
among agency PKI implementations, and achieving cost savings throughout the
government.
As of October 1999, GSA made awards to three prime contractors to provide a
range of services to any agency wishing to implement PKI technology. At the
most basic level, the contractors can provide digital signature certificates
to agencies without their having to develop their own PKIs. For each
certificate, agencies will be charged an issuance fee- which varies
depending on which ACES contractor is issuing the certificate and that
currently could be as high as $18.00- and a transaction fee ranging from 40
to $1.20 each time the certificate is used. Agencies will have to determine
which applications are best suited to use ACES certificates. For example,
GSA officials have stated that it would probably not be costeffective
to use ACES for less sensitive, high- volume applications, such as
electronic mail. In order to jump- start the use of ACES certificates by
agencies of the federal government, in May 2000 GSA announced that 500,000
ACES certificates would be distributed to agencies free of the normal
issuance costs. More advanced PKI services are also available through the
ACES contractors, including the creation of an agency- specific, customized
PKI; consulting services for developing certificate policies and
certification practices statements; development of ACES- enabled
applications and encryption services; and smart- card technology. Although
the goal of ACES is to motivate and facilitate agencies to use PKI
technology to provide electronic services to the public and business, few
agencies have been willing to be in the forefront of introducing electronic
service delivery. As of November 2000, only seven task orders had been
issued for ACES services, and only two agencies had taken advantage of GSA's
offer of free certificates. It remains to be seen to what extent agencies
are motivated to use ACES to advance their PKI applications for
two reasons. First, ACES allows users to apply on- line for their digital
certificates, rather than apply in person. Agencies that are considering
using ACES for sensitive applications may determine that on- line identity
binding is not secure enough for their purposes. For example, according to a
DOD official, the certificates issued under the ACES contract do not meet
DOD's requirements for face- to- face registration. Second, it is unclear
whether agencies will be willing to support the fee- for- certificate- use
cost model that is projected to be a major source of revenue for ACES
contractors.
Independent PKI PKI projects are currently being funded independently at a
number of
Projects Are Under federal agencies, including DOD, DOE, FDIC, NASA, and the
U. S. Patent
and Trademark Office. PKIs are being used for a variety of applications, Way
at Other Agencies
especially those involving personnel matters, contracts, and financial
transfers. These include pilot projects as well as operational applications.
Generally speaking, federal agency efforts to date have focused on using PKI
technology for transactions (1) within individual agencies, (2) between two
or more different agencies, and (3) between agencies and their commercial
trading partners.
Two major PKI applications being developed at DOD are the Defense Message
System (DMS) and the Defense Travel System (DTS). DMS is an organizational
and individual messaging service accessible from personal
computers at DOD locations around the world, including those of tactically
deployed personnel and other U. S. government users, with interfaces to
Allied users and DOD contractors. DMS will replace DOD's aging automatic
digital network system, which required special, separate terminals to send
and receive messages. As of November 2000, almost all of the unclassified
and secret sites that had been scheduled to implement DMS had been
commissioned for operations.
The second effort, DTS, is a new, paperless travel system that allows the
traveler to coordinate and arrange temporary duty business travel more
quickly and easily than the existing system. Travelers will no longer have
to go to separate offices to get travel orders, travel advances,
transportation,
lodging, and rental car arrangements. Under DTS, all of these transactions
can be made securely from a desktop or laptop computer. Once the completed
travel voucher is digitally signed by the traveler and approved by the
authorizing officer, the system will issue payments to the traveler and the
government credit card company. A limited operational test of DTS
began in October 2000, and the data from that test are currently being
analyzed. While the primary driver for DOD's development of PKI has been to
improve security of transactions rather than promote electronic government,
these projects are also intended to result in major business
improvements for DOD. According to the FPKISC, DOE has several ongoing
applications that employ PKI. Five certification authorities have cross-
certified among themselves at DOE national laboratories and field
activities, with over 2,000 certificates issued to DOE federal and
contractor employees in support of secure and authenticated e- mail, file
management, data
transfers, and personnel management functions. An additional 500
certificates were expected to be issued in fiscal year 2000. Additionally,
DOE is performing a pilot project in support of travel requests and travel
claims processing. The department is in the process of designing a
headquarters PKI, with the goal of interoperating with the existing
laboratory and field activity PKIs.
FDIC implemented two separate PKIs, one a low- assurance PKI and the second
a medium- assurance PKI. The low- assurance PKI is used for SSL Web- based
applications on its extranet with member institutions and external parties,
such as state and federal regulatory agencies. The medium- assurance PKI is
used by FDIC employees and some contractors for digitally signing and
encrypting electronic travel vouchers to facilitate
processing. NASA is currently working on an agencywide PKI for a variety of
applications that support the agency's mission. Planned uses of PKI include
encrypting and digitally signing e- mail, encrypting files on desktops, and
securing Web transactions. NASA is considering numerous other uses for PKI,
including financial management, electronic grants, electronic forms,
firewalls, and virtual private networks. The NASA PKI will have to support
diverse headquarters and center environments, consisting of networked
Intel- compatible, Apple, and Unix workstations, as well as some standalone
workstations in laboratories or special operational environments.
The U. S. Patent and Trademark Office of the Department of Commerce has two
applications in use that take advantage of PKI technology. The Patent
Application Information Retrieval System, which is currently operational,
permits authenticated access to the status of patent application information
using a digital signature. In June 2000, there were 40, 872 reported secure
queries to the system. And in October 2000, an Electronic
Patent Application Filing System went operational to provide inventors with
the capability to file an application for a new invention with the U. S.
Patent and Trademark Office, in which PKI technology was used to guarantee
the security of electronic applications. To date, over $4 million has been
spent on these PKI programs. This represents a considerable investment, but
the Patent Office believes that it will translate into substantial savings
and improved service delivery.
Full PKI Implementation Faces Many
Chapt er 3
Formidable Challenges While progress in spreading PKI technology throughout
the government is ongoing, the fact remains that designing and building
full- featured PKI implementations remains a difficult challenge. While user
application software with some public key features, such as the secure
sockets layer (SSL) protocol, is now in widespread use, full- featured PKI
implementations are not yet commonplace in either the government or the
private sector. A number of substantial issues must be addressed before the
technology can be widely and effectively deployed.
? Current PKI products and implementations suffer from significant
interoperability problems, which make it difficult for agency officials to
make decisions about how to develop a PKI. ? Because full- featured PKIs are
rare, and those that exist are in the early
stages of implementation and use, questions remain about how well this
technology will truly scale and interoperate as its use grows. ? Adoption of
the technology may be impeded by the high costs that, to date, have been
associated with building a PKI and enabling software applications to use it.
? An effective PKI- at any level within the government- will require a well-
defined set of policies for ensuring that stipulated levels of trust are
maintained on an ongoing basis. Establishing those policies will require
resolution of a range of historically sensitive issues and thus may be
difficult. ? Finally, as with any security technology, the success of a PKI
will depend
on how well people interact with the system and how well it is implemented.
Thus, federal agencies, which do not have a strong track record 1 in
managing information security, will be faced with the challenge of training
and involving systems administrators as well as users in the adoption of a
technology that many find complex and
difficult to understand. To date, federal agencies have not been directed by
any governmentwide standards for developing and managing PKIs. The
uncertainties and risks the government faces could be mitigated by
establishing and enforcing an overall management framework for implementing
PKI within the federal government. Such a framework would define roles and
responsibilities for
the development and management of the federal PKI, identify required 1
Information Security: Serious and Widespread Weaknesses Persist at Federal
Agencies (GAO/ AIMD- 00- 295, September 6, 2000) and Federal Information
Security: Actions Needed to Address Widespread Weaknesses (GAO/ T/ AIMD- 00-
135, March 29, 2000).
resources, and set policies to provide a consistent direction to individual
agencies. The framework could also include a governmentwide PKI
architecture, which would provide a technical structure for implementing
PKIs, thus reducing the risk of agencies building systems that are
noninteroperable and unnecessarily costly to maintain.
Interoperability Although vendors have generally designed and developed PKI
products Problems Make Broad
based on existing standards, those standards are not always clear and fully
defined, leaving vendors to devise their own interpretations of the
Deployment Decisions
requirements and in most cases develop their own proprietary approaches
Difficult to nonstandardized functions. The lack of interoperability among
PKI products leaves federal planners with several problems.
? Choosing among multiple noninteroperable products means taking the risk of
adopting an approach that does not fully conform to standards and may soon
need to be replaced. Although standards bodies, such as the Internet
Engineering Task Force (IETF) and others, have developed
and published a wide spectrum of public key technology standards to support
various aspects of PKI implementation, these standards are not always
complete enough to ensure interoperability. Thus, in some cases,
commercial vendors claim they have developed PKI products based on published
standards, yet their products still cannot work with those of other
companies. Although a standard should provide a common specification of
syntax and semantics for implementing a particular function, the description
might not be precise enough. Some semantics
may be missing or incompletely defined, or aspects of the standard may be
misinterpreted or implemented improperly, which can lead to noninteroperable
systems.
A prime example is the X. 509 version 3 standard for digital certificates.
The standard defines various aspects of how certificates are to be
constructed and managed, including what data fields are to be required and
what information will be in them. The standard also includes some
optional data fields that can be used for other attributes not defined in
the standard. Because the predefined data fields do not cover all the
attributes that some PKI implementers need, the optional fields have been
used for this additional information. A consistent approach for using the
optional fields in the X. 509 standard can significantly improve certificate
interoperability. An application can accept certificates from multiple
certification authorities only if the certificates conform to a consistent
certificate profile for their optional fields. However, if the
optional fields are used in different ways by different PKI implementations,
the certificates they produce cannot be interchanged without risk of
improperly processing the added information.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a
federal certificate profile that agencies wishing to interoperate with the
FBCA can use in developing their PKI implementations. The federal
certificate profile defines which extensions may be used, the
interpretations for those extensions, and how data are populated in those
fields. It does not preclude the use of additional extensions, but it does
define a consistent way of using and interpreting several extensions
considered essential to interoperability with the FBCA. However, agencies
are not required to conform with the federal certificate profile if they do
not plan to participate in the FBCA.
? The FBCA, which may help link some disparate agency PKIs developed from
noninteroperable products, is not yet operational. The FBCA is designed to
allow valid certificates generated in one agency's PKI to be accepted by
another agency's PKI, assuming that both agencies have
agreed in advance to have their PKIs bridged by the FBCA. The FBCA's
solution avoids the problem of interoperability among incompatible PKI
products by essentially translating the information in agency- specific
digital certificates into common terms that can be understood by the other
participating agency PKIs- a process known as certificate policy mapping.
However, the production version of the FBCA is not yet operational, and
current PKI products do not support direct interaction
between agencies' PKIs. Furthermore, the certificate policy mapping function
is not yet in operation and will not be truly tested until multiple agencies
field PKIs and attempt to have them interoperate through the FBCA. As a
result, the success of the FBCA in overcoming interoperability problems and
stimulating broad adoption of PKI technology in the federal government is
not yet assured. ? Directory interoperability, which is critical to the
sharing of certificate information within a PKI or network of PKIs, is
difficult to engineer. Online
directories serve the workhorse function of communicating with users on a
continuing basis to identify public keys and confirm their validity.
However, in many cases, directories do not work with each other because
directory products are implemented and configured differently. For example,
they may not use the same scheme to keep track of the names of files and
other electronic entities. If software on one user's computer cannot find
the information it needs in another agency's directory (because the
information may be organized
differently in that directory or because the directory was implemented based
on a different protocol), then secure transactions cannot take place between
the user and that other agency.
Within the federal government, the de facto federal PKI distributed
directory system will consist of an FBCA directory and a number of disparate
PKI domain directories. As a result of directory interoperability
difficulties identified during the prototype FBCA
demonstration held in April 2000, an ad hoc federal PKI Directory Working
Group was formed in June 2000 under the FPKISC to develop a directory
profile that outlines the requirements for agencies to interoperate with the
FBCA and its directory. To date, the working group developed a draft
directory profile, and ongoing meetings are scheduled for further
discussion.
? The lack of widely accepted standard application programming interfaces
(API) forces PKI application developers to rely on vendorspecific tool kits
or government- issued software modules, which are also likely to limit the
interoperability of the resulting applications. Even when the PKI- specific
components of a system have been made to successfully interoperate with
other systems, the task still remains to
communicate the information processed by the PKI with the user applications
that rely on it. Currently, vendors provide product- specific tool kits, 2
which are used to modify user software applications so that they will
interact correctly with a specific PKI implementation. Although several API
standards have been developed, none of them is widely accepted, and vendor
tool kits are not based on them. Thus, a tool kit from one vendor will
enable an application to work only with a PKI implemented using that
particular vendor's products. Agencies cannot replace one vendor's PKI
product with a product from a different vendor and expect the application to
continue to work.
Using a standard API to adapt applications to use PKIs could eliminate the
need for vendor tool kits and reduce development costs and implementation
time frames. This approach has already worked in specific cases at the
agency level. For example, the Army Corps of
Engineers developed and deployed an electronic signature system 2 A vendor-
provided tool kit is used to develop applications that require encryption,
decryption, digital signature, and other cryptographic operations. The tool
kit is usually based on proprietary interfaces that only work with one
vendor's solution.
using high- level APIs. The Department of State was able to adopt this same
system for an application it was developing, saving an estimated $750,000
and accelerating the project's implementation by about 30 months. 3
The cumulative effect of these interoperability problems is to make it
difficult for agency officials to make decisions about how to develop a PKI
using currently available commercial products and for application vendors to
tailor their products to use PKI technology. Agencies run the risk of
developing a system that does not work with existing applications or other
PKI systems and that may require extensive and costly modifications to meet
agency objectives. It is very likely that some noninteroperable PKI products
currently in use will quickly become obsolete and need to be
replaced. In addition, without an established set of high- level APIs that
vendors could build into their applications, the availability of
applications that are PKI- compliant is limited because it may not be cost-
effective to build an interface for the various PKI products that are
available.
Most PKIs Have Been Agencies of the federal government have only limited
experience with PKI, Limited to Pilot
and much of it is based on pilot projects or relatively small- scale
applications. Because of this limited practical experience, it is not known
Projects or Specific
how well PKI technology can be scaled to the level of hundreds of
Applications thousands or even millions of users, as will be encountered in
a fully operational, interconnected PKI serving the entire federal
government. The
mechanisms needed to support a large- scale implementation of PKI may not
work well in an environment supporting operations of the entire federal
government, its trading partners, and the public.
Most PKI projects at individual agencies have been limited to relatively
small pilot projects or specific applications. For example, the Patent
Office's Electronic Patent Application Filing System is targeted to a
relatively small population of patent attorneys. As of August 11, 2000, the
system had been deployed to 14 law firms, one independent inventor, and one
corporation. It had issued 1,032 certificates. Another example is the
National Institutes of Health, which developed a PKI for secure electronic
mail. At the time of our review, about 500 certificates had been issued for
the National Institutes of Health PKI, with plans to expand to about 15, 000
3 Electronic Signature: Sanction of the Department of State's System (GAO/
AIMD- 00- 227R, July 10, 2000).
certificates by the middle of 2001. DOD implemented a medium- assurance PKI
in July 2000 and is planning to issue certificates on common access cards to
all DOD personnel by October 2002, perhaps ultimately affecting as much as
half the federal work force.
Efforts to develop a governmentwide PKI are also still in the very early
phases, and concrete results have yet to emerge. To handle the large and
diverse population of federal employees, business partners, and public
citizens that will be encompassed by a federal PKI, a network of trusted
registration authorities will be needed to verify the identities of all
users in a rigorous and consistent way. In addition, another vast network of
interoperable on- line directories will need to be in place so that every
user's identity can be looked up and his or her digital certificate verified
before any transaction takes place. Software applications will potentially
have to consult a number of disparate directories to work out a trust path
that can be used to validate an incoming user's digital certificate.
Significant problems with verification failures or unacceptably slow
response times are quite possible until further operational experience is
gained.
The prototype FBCA has only been demonstrated in a laboratory environment,
as opposed to full- scale testing or operational use, and it experienced
very slow response times when first demonstrated in April 2000. While the
FBCA is necessary in facilitating cross- certification of disparate agency
PKIs, it needs to overcome a number of issues and
therefore is still an immature solution. For example, because agency PKIs
are not required to conform to a standard and are also likely to constantly
change, a continual effort will be needed to map changing agency policies to
the FBCA's predefined trust levels. This policy mapping activity, as well as
certification path creation for encryption certificates, was not
demonstrated at the April 2000 test. A DOD bridge certification authority
technology demonstration, featuring certificate policy mapping and other
capabilities, is currently planned for February 2001. Upon completing the
demonstration, the functions will be used to support the production FBCA
implementation.
Similarly, ACES, GSA's project to help jump start agency adoption of PKI for
public service delivery, was only beginning operational use in the fall of
2000. At the time of our review, only a handful of agencies were
participating in the ACES program, and these projects were still in the
early phases of implementation.
Developing and A significant cost is involved in developing, fielding, and
maintaining a Maintaining a PKI Can production PKI. Systems must be set up
to positively identify internal and
external users, issue them digital certificates, and manage the exchange Be
Expensive and verification of certificates. In addition, existing software
applications, electronic directories, and other legacy systems must be
modified so they can interact with the PKI. Furthermore, outside vendors
that conduct electronic business with an agency will likely incur costs and
disruption to make their own systems compatible. As a result, the total cost
associated
with building a PKI and enabling applications to use it can be significant.
Agencies that are developing their own enterprisewide PKIs need to consider
the cost associated with enabling their applications to use a PKI as well as
the cost of developing the PKI itself. A PKI by itself offers no
value until it is paired with applications designed to make use of its
security services. For example, an e- mail application must be PKI- enabled
to encrypt/ decrypt and digitally sign messages as well as to retrieve and
validate certificates from distributed directories in order to achieve
authentication, confidentiality, integrity, and nonrepudiation. DOD, for
instance, has identified a need for $170 million to initially modify some
applications to work with its PKI. This is in addition to the approximately
$700 million from fiscal year 2000 through fiscal year 2005 that the
department has requested solely for PKI development. To date, DOD has
identified about 600 applications- of which only a limited number will be
modified with this funding- throughout the military services as candidates
for PKI, out of approximately 9,000 to 10,000 systems that were considered.
If DOD decides to PKI- enable more systems, a significant additional cost
will be incurred.
Another issue that agencies have to address is the cost to outside
contractors of interacting with an agency's PKI in order to conduct
electronic business. Vendors may incur significant costs in obtaining
digital certificates to conduct business with the federal government.
Although this is not a direct cost to the agencies, the financial impact to
the vendors may
have an indirect impact on the cost of agency programs. And the financial
impact is compounded if vendors must modify their systems to deal
effectively with multiple agencies that may have implemented multiple
incompatible PKIs. DOD has established external certification authorities,
which are authorized to sell digital certificates that work with the DOD
PKI. Non- DOD organizations that wish to do business with DOD need to buy
certificates from one of these authorities. The cost per certificate is
about $200, and only a few contractors have purchased certificates from
the external certification authorities. DOD is aware of this issue and hopes
to reduce the cost per certificate in order to encourage participation from
non- DOD organizations in its electronic business activities.
Policy Issues Can Be As discussed, implementing a PKI involves more than
just installing and Difficult to Resolve
configuring the system's technical components. It is equally necessary to
establish the assurance objectives to be achieved by the PKI and policies
and procedures to support those objectives. The process of establishing a
complete set of policies to support a PKI can involve addressing a number of
difficult issues, including the following.
? Privacy. The public has shown that while it is increasingly willing to use
the Internet to transact business, it is concerned about controlling when,
how, and to what extent personal information is collected and used. 4 If the
federal PKI is not properly implemented and managed, the technologies that
have been developed to manage massive volumes of personal information could
also be abused. It is no longer technically
difficult for the government to establish databases that collect extensive
personal information about large numbers of individual citizens. There is a
growing sense that too much data have been computerized while
few safeguards have been established. In many transactions, it is important
that the least amount of information be required and provided so as to
preserve privacy. This means that when technologies such as PKI are
implemented, extra care must be taken to avoid improperly gathering or using
personal information. ? Maintaining assurance (trust) levels. Having
established a certain level of trust for a PKI, an agency will have to
develop implementation policies for establishing and maintaining that trust
level. For example, policies are needed that focus on issues such as what
assurance
information will be included in digital certificates, how individual users
will obtain digital certificates, and how user private keys will be
protected. The higher the level of trust, the more stringent the process of
user identification that will be required to create and assign digital
certificates. If users are to present positive identification in person in
order to get their certificates, for example, then registration authorities
must be set up with trained, trusted personnel to operate them. If smart 4
See Internet Privacy: Federal Agency Use of Cookies (GAO- 01- 147R, October
20, 2000) and Internet Privacy: Agencies' Efforts to Implement OMB's Privacy
Policy (GAO/ GGD- 00- 191, September 5, 2000).
cards are to be used to protect users' private keys, a process to distribute
and manage the smart cards will be necessary. Furthermore, the agency will
have to develop a policy for determining whether to interconnect with other
PKIs and accept their digital certificates. Most important, once the
appropriate policies and procedures have been
developed and implemented, an additional process will be needed to ensure
that required assurance levels do not degrade over time. For example,
agencies may be required to conduct periodic audits of their PKIs to ensure
that policies and procedures are being followed. ? Encryption key recovery.
If the keying material associated with the
encrypted data becomes lost or unusable for any reason, then those data will
be effectively lost unless some means exists to recover the keying material.
Accordingly, agencies will need to establish policies on escrowing and
distributing the keying material necessary to recover such data.
? Long- term proof of identity and authenticity. Agencies will need to
develop policies for electronically archiving digitally signed documents
possibly for long periods of time. Public key certificates, even very old
ones, will be maintained in association with electronic documents for the
long term, and the ability to properly process the security information and
maintain the level of assurance will also have to be
preserved. Agencies may have to produce these business documents under
subpoena, thus requiring a process for tamper- proof audit trails to show
that the integrity of the data is assured. In addition to digital signature
verification, agencies will also have to address other related issues, such
as maintaining the validity and security of transaction time stamps and
other requirements for legal proof.
Because all of these issues have significant resource and organizational
implications, the process of establishing and maintaining appropriate
policies and procedures will likely be very challenging for any agency
attempting to develop a full- featured PKI.
Organizationwide PKI technology is complex and difficult to grasp. As with
any other
Training Will Be Vital to technology used to provide security, the assurance
provided by a PKI will be only as good as the practices and procedures of
the users and Successful PKI
administrators who maintain the system on a daily basis. For example, if
Implementation administrators do not properly configure and maintain the PKI
software and hardware, vulnerabilities may be exposed that an attacker could
exploit. Likewise, if users do not properly safeguard their private keys, or
do not know how to properly interact with the PKI functions in their
application software, other vulnerabilities will be opened for potential
exploitation.
A PKI that otherwise would offer a high level of security could face
significant vulnerabilities if administrators do not properly configure
system servers and other devices. Even a very well- designed and implemented
PKI will lose its effectiveness if users do not properly safeguard their
private keys or do not understand the inherent vulnerabilities associated
with Web browsers, such as improperly accepting unverified certificates. As
a result, each agency implementing
and deploying a PKI must ensure that appropriate training and support is
available for management, staff, and users throughout the life of the
project. And users must be trained in how to use applications that have been
modified to work with digital certificates.
According to a report published by the Giga Information Group, a
contributing factor to the lack of adoption of PKI technology thus far is
that early adopters of PKI have found it difficult for users to interact
with PKI systems. 5 Tasks such as generating private/ public key pairs,
protecting
private keys, and backing up and using digital certificates may be difficult
for users to understand. While it is important to hide as many of the
technical details of PKI functions as possible from users, it remains
important that users understand what is happening when the PKI software
responds unexpectedly, such as when a certificate has been rejected or is no
longer valid or a digital signature does not match the original. Users will
need to be trained in what actions to take in response to these events,
which they may find frustrating because they will likely be prevented from
carrying out their intended business. Developing and implementing an
effective training program will contribute to the cost and time involved in
developing a PKI.
5 Giga Information Group , Cost and Difficulties in User Understanding Are
the Main Barriers to Digital Certificate Adoption, November 29, 1999.
Current Agency Resolving the range of PKI implementation challenges will be
no trivial task
Initiatives Are Not for federal agencies; no simple solutions are available.
However, most of these challenges involve uncertainty about what standard
management
Guided by a Federal approaches and technical solutions the government is
likely to adopt.
PKI Management Without being overly prescriptive, a well- defined management
framework
Framework for the federal government's PKI efforts would provide guidance
that could
mitigate some of the risk that agencies face in adopting PKI technology. To
date, federal agencies have not been directed by any governmentwide
standards for developing and managing PKIs. Early agency PKI pilot projects
have been focused on narrow communities of interest and have not addressed
larger compatibility problems. Although the FPKISC has
acknowledged the “need for a thoughtful, overarching mechanism to help
ensure the interoperable use of such technology” in the federal
government, the committee does not provide top- down policy guidance to
agencies on developing and implementing PKIs and has not developed or
sponsored an official federal PKI management framework. 6 All FPKISC
guidance is strictly for optional use by federal agencies. Since 1998 the
committee has taken a “governance by the governed” approach, in
which agencies implementing PKIs collectively determine how best to ensure
efficient and seamless interoperability.
A management framework would provide complete, integrated guidance to
federal agencies that could help them to lessen the risks involved in
deciding to adopt PKI technology. Such a framework would also promote
interoperability among agencies' PKIs and thus further development of a
federal governmentwide PKI. Essential elements of a management framework
that are not currently well defined are discussed below.
? A program plan identifying roles and responsibilities at the
governmentwide and agency levels- as well as general time frames and
resources to develop, deploy, and maintain a federal PKI- has not been
developed. To date, agencies individually determine when and how to
implement PKIs and what agency functions to include. The FPKISC, which
serves as a “champion” for PKI issues and is in charge of
planning and developing governmentwide PKI capabilities, has no directive
authority. Although the FPKISC has collected information on and
coordinated federal PKI efforts, it has not been in a position to provide 6
FPKISC, The Evolving Federal Public Key Infrastructure, June 2000, p. 12.
focus to these efforts by establishing well- defined goals and time frames
and highlighting required resources to achieve them, including resources for
key supporting activities, such as training. This stands in contrast with
other government initiatives, such as the High
Performance Computing and Communications Initiative, first organized in
fiscal year 1992, under which annual supplements to the President's Budget
have been prepared that list specific performance goals, target dates, and
funds to be earmarked throughout the government.
In this regard, some PKI planning has been done at the agency level.
Specifically, DOD has developed a PKI roadmap and implementation plan that
set goals and time frames and identified the roles and responsibilities for
its PKI effort in areas such as program management, requirements
identification, interoperability, systems development, procurement,
operations, and oversight. 7 However, analogous documents have not yet been
produced for the federal government as a whole.
? Policy standards to minimize the development of unique PKI solutions by
federal agencies have not been established. At present, each federal agency
develops its own PKI and management policies. As a result, agencies
independently establish PKIs using different- or in some cases undefined-
approaches in key implementation areas, such as privacy protection, trust
levels, encryption key recovery, and long- term proof of identity and
authenticity. Although PKI development is still at an early stage, basic
management incompatibilities have already arisen. For example, DOD officials
stated that the business model adopted by the
ACES project, which is based on agencies paying a fee to a contractor every
time a user's certificate is validated, would be extremely difficult to
implement within DOD. A crucial problem is that the different levels of
trust and associated means of confirming users' identities and issuing
certificates that are being established at different agencies exacerbate
interoperability problems. A federal certificate policy standard that
agencies must adhere to currently does not exist. (Adherence to the federal
certificate
profile, developed by NIST, is only required of agencies participating in 7
Public Key Infrastructure Roadmap for the Department of Defense (Version
3.0, October 29, 1999) and Public Key Infrastructure Implementation Plan for
the Department of Defense (Version 3.1, December 18, 2000).
the FBCA project.) As a result, agencies have no clear guidance on (1) what
certificate classes (trust levels) will be supported across the government,
(2) the binding requirements between users and their public keys for each
class, (3) how key pairs are to be generated and managed, and (4)
requirements for complying with existing standards, such as Federal
Information Processing Standards Publication 140- 1 for cryptographic
modules. The policies issued by DOD and the Government of Canada are good
examples of how a certificate policy could be constructed and could serve as
a starting point for a governmentwide standard.
? Technical standards- including a federal PKI architecture- that can guide
the development and integration of agency PKIs are not complete. As
discussed, individual agency PKIs are not interoperable, and the
FBCA has been established as a way to help bridge disparate PKIs. Without a
well- defined federal PKI architecture, it is difficult to have a complete
set of technical requirements that would help ensure governmentwide
interoperability. Such an architecture would not preclude agencies from
tailoring PKIs to meet their specific needs and could be designed to be
flexible to accommodate future growth. Table 1 provides a summary of the
advantages and disadvantages of having an architecture for systems
development; these are analogous to the issues associated with building a
federal PKI. The advantages of having an architecture are compelling, but
developing an architecture will not be easy. If an architecture is to be
effectively developed, maintained, and enforced, an effort will be required
to reach broad agreement on the
architecture, and in some cases the architecture may not support optimal
solutions for all applications.
Table 1: The Advantages and Disadvantages of an Architecture Advantages
Disadvantages
Facilitates a disciplined approach to Requires agreement among industry,
software systems development.
government, and users on the elements of the architecture, which may be
difficult and Facilitates standard system design and time- consuming to
obtain. development decisions that can result in reduced cost and increased
performance.
Requires compliance with an overall architecture, but this may not
necessarily Reduces the risk of building and buying provide an optimum
solution for all systems that are duplicative, incompatible, applications.
and costly to maintain.
Promotes systems interoperability, portability, and scalability.
Provides flexibility to accommodate future growth.
Can reduce reliance on proprietary solutions.
According to its strategic plan for fiscal years 2001 through 2002, the
federal CIO Council, which oversees the FPKISC, is aware of the need for a
framework of policies and guidance for federal PKI efforts. The council's
stated goals are to identify federal government PKI requirements;
recommend policies, procedures, and standards; provide oversight of PKI
activities in pilot projects; and make recommendations regarding
establishment, demonstration, and operation of a federal PKI. However, the
council's plans do not include the formulation of specific plans for PKI
implementation throughout the government nor does the strategic plan set as
an objective to develop a management framework document that would integrate
and codify guidance on PKI development.
Conclusions The federal government must overcome a number of substantial
challenges before PKI technology can be widely and effectively deployed.
These challenges include providing interoperability among agency PKIs,
ensuring PKI implementations can support a potential large scale of users,
reducing the cost of building PKI systems, setting policies to maintain
trust levels among agencies, and establishing training programs for users at
all levels. Although such challenges are difficult to overcome in the near
term, the federal government can take steps to better assist agencies at
developing
and implementing PKIs that may eventually be interconnected into a federal
governmentwide system. The recent effort to develop a FBCA is an excellent
first step in this direction, but this activity currently lacks the context
of a well- defined program plan for the government as well as key
policy and technical standards. Establishing a federal PKI management
framework could facilitate and accelerate participation in the FBCA as well
as overall federal adoption of a key technology for enabling electronic
government. Recommendations for
Although federal agencies are accountable for assessing their own Executive
Action
information security risks and determining what measures they will take in
response, OMB has statutory responsibility to develop and oversee policies,
principles, standards, and guidelines used by agencies for ensuring the
security of federal information and systems. As such, we recommend that the
Director, OMB:
? Establish a governmentwide framework to provide agencies with direction
for implementing PKIs. Recognizing the government's evolving efforts in
implementing PKI technology, OMB's framework should encompass initiatives
currently being developed by the CIO Council, such as the activities of the
FPKISC and the FBCA, as well as existing guidance related to PKI issued by
NIST and the Department of Justice.
To construct this framework, we further recommend that the Director, OMB,
take the following specific steps:
? Develop federal PKI policy guidance in order to (1) facilitate the use of
PKI, (2) ensure that agency PKI applications meet consistent levels of
security, and (3) reduce the overall risk to the government of developing
disparate PKI implementations. The guidance should discuss the full range of
policy issues relevant to PKI- including privacy, trust levels,
encryption key recovery, and long- term proof of identity and authenticity.
? Ensure the development and periodic review of technical guidance,
such as high- level APIs, as use of PKI technology in the public and private
sectors broadens and standards develop and mature. ? Ensure the preparation
of a program plan for the federal PKI, including
implementation of the FBCA. The program plan should define roles and
responsibilities among participating agencies and identify milestones and
resources needed to develop, deploy, and maintain a federal PKI and
associated applications, including the need for PKI- related training.
? Ensure, through ongoing oversight of federal information security
activities, that agencies are adhering to federal PKI policy and technical
guidance, including providing justification for nonparticipation in the
FBCA. In implementing these recommendations, OMB should work with other key
federal organizations, especially the CIO Council, FPKISC, and NIST, to
ensure broad acceptance within the federal government.
Agency Comments and We received comments on a draft of this report from OMB,
GSA, DOD, the
Our Evaluation Chairman of the FPKISC, and Treasury. All of the agency
officials who
reviewed the draft agreed with the overall content of the report. However,
comments and discussions with officials from OMB and GSA raised concerns
about the intent of our draft recommendations. Specifically, the
OMB and GSA officials were concerned that the recommendations language in
our draft report would lead OMB to adopt an overly prescriptive “how
to” role in federal PKI implementation. In response to OMB and GSA
concerns, we have clarified the language outlining our recommendations to
focus on OMB's role in establishing a governmentwide PKI framework that
recognizes the government's evolving efforts and encompasses initiatives
that are currently underway. We have also clarified the major elements that
should be included in this framework- policy and technical guidance, a
federal PKI program plan, and oversight.
In commenting on our draft recommendations, GSA expressed concern about
potential adoption of a “one size fits all” approach to PKI
technical solutions, architecture, and policy. GSA stated that it endorses a
broad range of solutions to meet individual agency electronic business
needs. We believe that a comprehensive management framework- as we have
defined it in the report and clarified it in our recommendations language-
would provide a consistent and disciplined approach to assist agencies in
examining alternatives, making risk- based decisions, and determining
appropriate levels of security for their PKIs and associated applications.
The framework would not assume or replace the program and security
responsibilities of individual federal agencies but would, rather, help them
meet the objectives of a federal PKI and reduce risk for the government as a
whole. For example, the framework would include policies, standards, and
technical guidance providing for a range of implementation approaches that
agencies can choose from to satisfy their individual requirements. At the
same time, adherence to the framework would
promote interoperability and help reduce costs by guiding agencies away from
developing unique and noninteroperable PKIs.
Regarding our discussion of the value of a federal PKI architecture, GSA
commented that, in its opinion, the ACES program already serves this role.
We disagree. The ACES program is too narrowly focused to serve as a model
architecture for the entire government. ACES is aimed at facilitating
transactions with the public (as opposed to interagency and intra- agency
applications) and offers services on a contractual basis to agencies that
choose not to develop their own internal PKI infrastructure. In addition,
agencies are not required to use ACES in developing their PKIs, nor has the
technical architecture of ACES been designated a model for the federal
government. Therefore, however useful it may be for certain purposes, ACES
does not serve as a governmentwide PKI architecture. In addition, as noted
elsewhere in the report, DOD has stated that the binding between an
individual and their public key is not secure enough to meet their needs.
DOD, the FPKISC Chair, and Treasury commented on the challenge of
affordability discussed in our report. While the agencies all agreed with
our discussion of the high cost associated with implementing PKI technology,
they commented that the long- term benefits of assured electronic
communications should justify the expense. We believe the report, taken as a
whole, provides a balanced picture of the need for PKI, coupled with the
cost challenge that the government faces in implementing it. However, we
have made revisions to our discussion on affordability- particularly startup
funding- to clarify this point.
DOD concurred with the report, stating that the recommendations for
executive action all appeared to be prudent for successful implementation of
a PKI across the federal government. In regard to our recommendation
for a comprehensive management framework, DOD stated that our recommendation
should “quantify” the continued roles of the FPKISC and CIO
Council within the framework. Although it is OMB's responsibility to define
the precise roles of these and all other nonstatutory entities within the
federal PKI management framework, we agree that the FPKISC and CIO Council
should continue to play important roles in the development of PKI in the
federal government, and have revised our recommendations to
clarify this point. Treasury commented that the draft report accurately
captured technical and policy efforts to date and offered a series of
editorial and clarifying
Appendi xes Limitations of the Secure Sockets Layer
Appendi x I
Protocol A common method of facilitating secure connections through the
Internet is to use a protocol known as the secure sockets layer (SSL) to
encrypt data that are transmitted between a user's computer and the server
supporting an electronic commerce Web site. This technology uses a limited
form of PKI to provide confidentiality for the transaction. Commonly
available Web browsers (such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer and America
Online's Netscape Communicator) have built- in software that uses the SSL
protocol
to obtain digital certificate information that can be used to authenticate
the server that they are connecting with and establish an encrypted session
between the user and the server, based on public key cryptographic
techniques. This process provides confidentiality for customer information
such as the customer's name, address, and credit card information.
Although SSL can provide confidentiality during a transaction and perhaps
some degree of authentication, as commonly configured and used it does not
provide other important security services. For example: ? Unless the user
manually checks and has a way to personally validate
the certificate presented by the Web- based server during the SSL process,
there is no real assurance of the identity of that server (authentication).
Furthermore, manual review of the certificate is not a simple process. Users
may have to navigate several menu selections to find certificate information
and determine if the name on the certificate
is the same as that of the site they believe they are visiting. Second, they
need to consult the authority that issued the certificate to determine if
the certificate has been revoked, i. e., whether it can still be trusted.
Third, they need to review the process that was used to bind the server to
that certificate and determine whether that process is adequately secure.
This is because some certificates are issued using very weak processes that
offer little real assurance. For example, some certificates can be obtained
simply by contacting one of the certification authorities that issue these
kinds of certificates and paying a fee. Such a process does not provide
assurance that the server is operated by the entity named on the
certificate.
? Although data traveling between the server and the user are encrypted,
once such data are received and stored locally by the server, the data may
not be encrypted. For example, recently a major financial services company
was successfully attacked and unencrypted customer credit card numbers were
obtained (violating confidentiality). Additionally, a successful attack
against a server storing unencrypted data could allow
an attacker to compromise the data in a manner that might not be detected
(violating data integrity).
? Although a more recent version of the SSL protocol allows the server to
authenticate the user, in order for this process to work, the user must have
a digital certificate. However, many users do not have these certificates.
In addition, just as with the server certificates, no effective
process is in place to validate a user's identity before issuing a
certificate (violating authentication). ? Although it is used for electronic
commerce transactions, SSL does not provide all the needed assurances for
these transactions. Credit card
laws and policies compensate for security weaknesses and significantly
contribute to confidence in the system, since credit card owners can
repudiate bogus transactions. It is up to the merchant to prove that the
customer did in fact make the transaction (issue of nonrepudiation).
Certification Path Models for Building Large
Appendi x II
PKIs For the full benefits of PKI technology to be realized, there must be a
way to combine separate systems into larger connected networks of trust,
such as a single large federal PKI, which could in turn be subsumed within a
larger national or international network. To do this, each component within
the larger network of PKIs needs a way to reliably recognize and trust
digital certificates generated by the other components. Three conceptual
models have been proposed for achieving this objective: (1) reliance on
trust lists embedded in Web browsers, (2) having certification authorities
organized into a single hierarchy, and (3) organizing certification
authorities as a mesh. Each model has strengths and weaknesses, and a
clearly superior method has yet to emerge.
Trust Lists The first approach to trusting digital certificates issued
externally to a specific PKI involves using predetermined “trust
lists” of external certification authorities. (See figure 9.) Using
this approach, a file
containing self- signed certificates for each trusted certification
authority is placed in each user's Web browser. The user's computer will
accept a certificate only if it is directly signed by one of the listed
certification
authorities. Users can control the file and add to or remove certification
authorities from the list.
Figure 9: Trust List Certification Path Root
Root Root
certification certification
certification authorities
authorities authorities
Sub certification authorities User
Source: Federal Public Key Infrastructure Steering Committee.
This model is currently the most widely used, as software to support it is
built into the two most popular browsers on the market. 1 It is relatively
simple, straightforward, and easy to implement. It allows the individual
user to have complete control over which certification authorities he or she
trusts. The simple certification path may also speed processing.
Despite its widespread use, this approach has several drawbacks that result
in weak security assurances. First, the inclusion of a default list of
certification authorities in the prepackaged browser software provides no
way to ensure that the list is accurate. In fact, the list will have to be
constantly updated in order to reflect the addition or deletion of
certification authorities. As a result, no means exists to check for prompt
certification revocation. Second, the fact that the end user controls the
list of certification authorities creates an opportunity for users to
subvert an
organization's assurance objectives. For example, a user may decide to
accept invalid digital certificates inserted by a hacker or signed by a
certification authority that the organization or agency has not approved. To
prevent such problems, the organization needs to continually determine,
update, and maintain- on each user's computer- its official list of trusted
certification authorities, as well as indications of the trust levels
associated with the certificates issued by those certification authorities,
and how those certification authorities are to be identified as trusted in
agency application software. As a result, the management of this potentially
large
list may be too difficult and time- consuming for most organizations.
Hierarchical Model In order to support a more systematic and ordered method
for checking
digital certificates, a hierarchy of certification authorities is sometimes
used. (See figure 10.) The basis for this model is the designation of a
single “root” certification authority that is trusted by all
users. The root
certification authority issues certificates to subordinate certification
authorities, which may in turn issue certificates to even lower- level
certification authorities. This hierarchy may be many certification
authorities deep. Because each authority's certificate is signed by a higher
authority, the user can always verify the validity of a particular
certificate by tracing the certification path back to the known and trusted
root. 1 The software included with these browsers relies on the secure
sockets layer (SSL) protocol. Limitations of SSL are discussed in appendix
I.
Figure 10: Hierarchical Model Certification Path
Root CA Sub CA User
Source: Federal Public Key Infrastructure Steering Committee.
This model has both advantages and disadvantages. First among its strengths
is that the process to validate users' certificates is straightforward, as
each user has a certification path back to the root certification authority.
Simplifying the certificate validation makes it easier
for one organizational unit to accept certificates created by another. This
hierarchical model also lends itself to the management structure of many
organizations, such as agencies of the federal government.
A drawback to this approach is that the root certification authority
represents a single point of failure; if it is compromised, all subordinate
certification authorities and all certificates that have been issued are
compromised and will have to be replaced. Additionally, since many federal
agency PKIs are likely to be independently developed and funded, it is
unlikely that agreement could be reached on a single root PKI for the entire
federal government. Finally, the potential for very long trust paths can
have a negative impact on processing efficiency. Mesh Architecture A third
approach is to establish nonhierarchical links among certification
authorities that are not subordinated to each other. This is known as a mesh
or network architecture. (See figure 11.) Independent certification
authorities cross- certify one another and issue each other certificates.
The resulting electronic credentials are known as “cross- certificate
pairs,” and
are the basis for a mesh of trust relationships between certification
authorities. A recipient of a digital certificate may not have a direct
trust relationship with the certification authority that originated the
certificate for a given transaction. But the recipient's PKI software can
determine whether that certificate is to be trusted by starting with the one
or more certification authorities that are already established as trusted
and
determining whether a chain of cross- certificate pairs can be followed back
to the originating certification authority.
Figure 11: Mesh Architecture Certification Path
CA User
Source: Federal Public Key Infrastructure Steering Committee.
This peer- to- peer model has distinct advantages. It is flexible,
facilitating ad hoc associations and trust relationships, and reflects the
bilateral trust of transacting parties. It allows the direct cross-
certification of certification
authorities whose users communicate frequently, which reduces the amount of
processing time necessary to generate the certification path. And if one of
the certification authorities is compromised, the negative effect on the
rest of the network is minimized. Certificates would have to be reissued for
only that one certification authority and its users.
Drawbacks to this model include the fact that finding a valid certification
path can be complex and can consume a lot of computer processing time. A
user cannot provide a single certification path that is guaranteed to enable
verification of his or her certificates by all other users.
Comments From the Department of the
Appendi x II I Treasury
Comments From the General Services
Appendi x V I Administration
Glossary Agency CA An agency CA is a certification authority that acts on
behalf of an agency and is under its operational control. Application
Programming
The application programming interface is the interface between the Interface
application software and the application platform (i. e., operating system),
across which all services are provided. Authentication Authentication is a
security measure designed to establish the validity of a
transmission, message, or originator, or means of verifying an individual's
authorization to receive specific categories of information. Backup Backup
copies of files and programs are made to facilitate recovery if necessary.
Binding Binding is the process of associating two related elements of
information. Certificate A certificate is a digital representation of
information that at least
(1) identifies the certification authority issuing it, (2) names or
identifies the person, process, or equipment that is the user of the
certificate, (3) contains the user's public key, (4) identifies its
operational period, and (5) is digitally signed by the certification
authority issuing it. A certificate is the means by which a user is
linked-“ bound”- to a public key.
Certification Authority (CA) A CA is an authority trusted by one or more
users to issue and manage X. 509 public key certificates and certificate
revocation lists. Certification Path Certification path is a method used by
PKIs for recognizing and trusting digital certificates issued by other PKIs
in order to create larger, connected
networks of trust. Three conceptual models for creating certification paths
include (1) trust lists, (2) hierarchical model, and (3) mesh architecture.
Certificate Policy Certificate policy is a specialized form of
administrative policy that addresses all aspects of the generation,
production, distribution, accounting, compromise recovery, and
administration of digital certificates. By controlling critical elements of
a certificate's data structure, a certificate policy and its associated
enforcement technology can support provision of the security assurances
required by particular applications.
Certification Practice A certification practice statement is a statement of
the practices that a CA
Statement employs in issuing, suspending, revoking, and renewing
certificates and
providing access to them, in accordance with specific requirements (i. e.,
requirements specified in the certificate policy or requirements specified
in a contract for services).
Certificate Revocation List A certificate revocation list is a list
maintained by a CA of the certificates it has issued that have been revoked
prior to their stated expiration date. Compromise Compromise is the
disclosure of information to unauthorized persons, or a
violation of the security policy of a system in which unauthorized
intentional or unintentional disclosure, modification, destruction, or loss
of an object may have occurred.
Confidentiality Confidentiality is the assurance that information is not
disclosed to unauthorized entities or processes. Cross- Certificate A cross-
certificate is a certificate used to establish a trust relationship between
two certification authorities. Data Integrity Data integrity is the
assurance that data are unchanged from creation to reception. Digital
Signature Digital signature is the result of a transformation of a message
by means of
a cryptographic system using keys such that a relying party can determine
(1) whether the transformation was created using the private key that
corresponds to the public key in the signer's digital certificate and
(2) whether the message has been altered since the transformation was made.
Electronic Government Electronic government involves the use of network
technology (especially the Internet) to provide on- line public access to
government information
and services and to improve internal business operations. Encryption
Certificate An encryption certificate is a certificate containing a public
key that is used
to encrypt electronic messages, files, documents, or data transmissions, or
to establish or exchange a session key for these same purposes. Federal
Bridge Certification
FBCA is a system of certification authorities, directories, certificate
Authority (FBCA)
policies, and certification practice statements designed to provide peer-
topeer interoperability among federal agency principal certification
authorities.
Federal Public Key This authority is a federal government body responsible
for administering
Infrastructure Policy and enforcing policies regarding how agency PKIs will
interoperate Authority
through the FBCA. Government Paperwork
This act, Public Law 105- 277 (October 21, 1998), sets a deadline of October
Elimination Act
21, 2003, for agencies of the federal government to develop capabilities to
permit, where practicable, electronic maintenance, submission, or disclosure
of information, including the use of electronic signatures.
Hierarchical Certification The hierarchical model is a conceptual model for
creating a certification
Path Model path that is based on the designation of a single
“root” certification
authority trusted by all users. The root certification authority issues
certificates to subordinate certification authorities that may in turn issue
certificates to lower- level certification authorities.
Integrity Integrity is the assurance that data are protected against
unauthorized modification or destruction of information.
Interoperability Interoperability is the ability of two or more systems or
components to exchange information and to use the information that has been
exchanged.
Key Pair A key pair includes two mathematically related keys that have the
following properties: (1) one key can be used to encrypt a message that can
only be decrypted using the other key and (2) even knowing one key, it is
computationally infeasible to discover the other key. Mesh Certification
Path
The mesh model is a conceptual model for creating a certification path that
Model establishes links among peer certification authorities.
Nonrepudiation Nonrepudiation is the assurance that the sender is provided
with proof of delivery and that the recipient is provided with proof of the
sender's identity so that neither can later deny having processed the data.
Technical nonrepudiation refers to the assurance a relying party has that if
a public key is used to validate a digital signature, that signature had to
have been
made by the corresponding private signature key. Legal nonrepudiation refers
to how well possession or control of the private signature key can be
established.
Peer CA Peer CA is a CA in a mesh certification path that has a self- signed
certificate that is distributed to its certificate- holders and that is used
by them to start certification paths. Peer CAs are not subordinated to other
certification authorities; instead, they cross- certify one another.
Principal CA The principal CA is a CA designated by an agency to
interoperate with the FBCA. An agency may designate multiple principal CAs
to interoperate with the FBCA.
Privacy Privacy defines restricting access to subscriber or relying party
information in accordance with federal law and agency policy.
Private Key The private key is (1) the key of a signature key pair used to
create a digital signature, or (2) the key of an encryption key pair used to
decrypt
confidential information. In both cases, this key must be kept secret.
Public Key The public key is (1) the key of a signature key pair used to
validate a
digital signature or (2) the key of an encryption key pair used to encrypt
confidential information. In both cases, this key is made publicly
available, normally in the form of a digital certificate.
Public Key Infrastructure PKI is a system of hardware, software, policies,
and people that, when fully
(PKI) and properly implemented, can provide a suite of information security
assurances- including confidentiality, data integrity, authentication, and
nonrepudiation- that are important in protecting sensitive
communications and transactions. Registration Authority Registration
Authority belongs to an entity responsible for identification and
authentication of certificate subjects, but not for signing or issuing
certificates (i. e., a registration authority is delegated certain tasks on
behalf of an authorized CA). Relying Party The relying party is a person or
agency receiving information that includes a certificate and a digital
signature verifiable with reference to a public key
listed in the certificate, and in a position to rely on them. Revoke a
Certificate To revoke a certificate means to prematurely end the operational
period of a certificate effective at a specific date and time. Risk Risk is
the expectation of loss expressed as the probability that a particular
threat will exploit a particular vulnerability with a particular harmful
result. Root CA In a hierarchical PKI, the root CA is the CA whose public
key serves as the
most trusted datum (i. e., the beginning of trust paths) for a security
domain.
Server A server is a system entity that provides a service in response to
requests from clients. Signature Certificate A signature certificate
contains a public key intended for verifying digital signatures rather than
for encrypting data or performing any other
cryptographic functions. Subordinate CA In a hierarchical PKI, the
subordinate CA is a CA whose certificate signature key is certified by
another CA and whose activities are
constrained by that other CA. Threat A threat is any circumstance or event
with the potential to cause harm to an
information system in the form of destruction, disclosure, adverse
modification of data, and/ or denial of service. Tool Kit In the context of
PKI, a tool kit is a suite of software used to develop or modify
applications so that they effectively perform encryption, decryption,
digital signature generation, or other cryptographic operations. Most
commercial tool kits are based on proprietary data interfaces that
work only with one vendor's products. Trust List A trust list is a
conceptual model for creating a certification path that is based on a
standardized collection of trusted certificates used by relying parties to
authenticate other certificates.
X. 509 X. 509 is the most widely used standard for defining the format for
digital certificates.
Sources: Federal Public Key Infrastructure Steering Committee; Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.; National Security
Telecommunications and Information Systems Security Committee.
Related GAO Products Bank Regulators' Evaluation of Electronic Signature
Systems (GAO- 01- 129R, November 8, 2000). Internet Privacy: Federal Agency
Use of Cookies (GAO- 01- 147R, October 20, 2000).
The Challenge of Data Sharing: Results of a GAO- Sponsored Symposium on
Benefit and Loan Programs (GAO- 01- 67, October 20, 2000). Electronic
Government: Opportunities and Challenges Facing the FirstGov Web Gateway
(GAO- 01- 87T, October 2, 2000). Financial Management Service: Significant
Weaknesses in Computer Controls (GAO/ AIMD- 00- 305, September 26, 2000).
Electronic Government: Government Paperwork Elimination Act Presents
Challenges for Agencies (GAO/ AIMD- 00- 282, September 15, 2000).
Information Security: Serious and Widespread Weaknesses Persist at Federal
Agencies (GAO/ AIMD- 00- 295, September 6, 2000). Internet Privacy:
Agencies' Efforts to Implement OMB's Privacy Policy (GAO/ GGD- 00- 191,
September 5, 2000). Defense Management: Electronic Commerce Implementation
Strategy Can Be Improved (GAO/ NSIAD- 00- 108, July 18, 2000).
Electronic Signature: Sanction of the Department of State's System (GAO/
AIMD- 00- 227R, July 10, 2000). Information Security: Fundamental Weaknesses
Place EPA Data and Operations at Risk (GAO/ AIMD- 00- 215, July 6, 2000).
Information Security: Vulnerabilities in DOE's Systems for Unclassified
Civilian Research (GAO/ AIMD- 00- 140, June 9, 2000).
Electronic Government: Federal Initiatives Are Evolving Rapidly But They
Face Significant Challenges (GAO/ T- AIMD/ GGD- 00- 179, May 22, 2000).
Federal Information Security: Actions Needed to Address Widespread
Weaknesses (GAO/ T- AIMD- 00- 135, March 29, 2000).
Information Security: Comments on Proposed Government Information Security
Act of 1999 (GAO/ T- AIMD- 00- 107, March 2, 2000). Information Security:
Weaknesses at 22 Agencies (GAO/ AIMD- 00- 32R, November 10, 1999).
Critical Infrastructure Protection: Fundamental Improvements Needed to
Assure Security of Federal Operations (GAO/ T- AIMD- 00- 7, October 6,
1999). Information Security: Many NASA Mission- Critical Systems Face
Serious Risks (GAO/ AIMD- 99- 47, May 20, 1999).
Indian Trust Funds: Interior Lacks Assurance That Trust Improvement Plan
Will Be Effective (GAO/ AIMD- 99- 53, April 28, 1999).
Information Security: Serious Weaknesses Place Critical Federal Operations
and Assets at Risk (GAO/ AIMD- 98- 92, September 23, 1998).
Customs Service Modernization: Architecture Must Be Complete and Enforced to
Effectively Build and Maintain Systems (GAO/ AIMD- 98- 70, May 5, 1998).
Identity Fraud: Information on Prevalence, Cost, and Internet Impact Is
Limited (GAO/ GGD- 98- 100BR, May 1, 1998).
Tax Systems Modernization: Blueprint Is a Good Start But Not Yet
Sufficiently Complete to Build or Acquire Systems (GAO/ AIMD/ GGD- 98- 54,
February 24, 1998). Social Security Administration: Internet Access to
Personal Earnings and Benefits Information (GAO/ T- AIMD/ HEHS- 97- 123, May
6, 1997). Air Traffic Control: Complete and Enforced Architecture Needed for
FAA Systems Modernization (GAO/ AIMD- 97- 30, February 3, 1997).
Corps of Engineers Electronic Signature System (GAO/ AIMD- 97- 18R, November
19, 1996).
Information Superhighway: An Overview of Technology Challenges (GAO/ AIMD-
95- 23, January 23, 1995).
(511709) Lett er
GAO United States General Accounting Office
Page 1 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Contents
Contents Page 2 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Contents Page 3 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Page 4 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
United States General Accounting Office Washington, D. C. 20548
Page 5 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Page 6 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Executive Summary Page 7 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Executive Summary Page 8 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Executive Summary Page 9 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Executive Summary Page 10 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Executive Summary Page 11 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Executive Summary Page 12 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Page 13 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Page 14 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1
Chapter 1 Background
Page 15 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 16 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 17 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 18 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 19 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 20 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 21 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 22 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 23 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 24 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 25 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 26 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 27 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 28 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 29 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 30 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 31 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 1 Background
Page 32 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Page 33 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 2
Chapter 2 The Federal Government Has Made Progress in Planning and
Coordinating PKI Initiatives
Page 34 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 2 The Federal Government Has Made Progress in Planning and
Coordinating PKI Initiatives
Page 35 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 2 The Federal Government Has Made Progress in Planning and
Coordinating PKI Initiatives
Page 36 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 2 The Federal Government Has Made Progress in Planning and
Coordinating PKI Initiatives
Page 37 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 2 The Federal Government Has Made Progress in Planning and
Coordinating PKI Initiatives
Page 38 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 2 The Federal Government Has Made Progress in Planning and
Coordinating PKI Initiatives
Page 39 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 2 The Federal Government Has Made Progress in Planning and
Coordinating PKI Initiatives
Page 40 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 2 The Federal Government Has Made Progress in Planning and
Coordinating PKI Initiatives
Page 41 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Page 42 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 43 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 44 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 45 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 46 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 47 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 48 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 49 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 50 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 51 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 52 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 53 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 54 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 55 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 56 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 57 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 58 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Chapter 3 Full PKI Implementation Faces Many Formidable Challenges
Page 59 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
comments. OMB also offered a series of clarifying comments. These have been
addressed as appropriate throughout the report.
Page 60 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Appendix I
Appendix I Limitations of the Secure Sockets Layer Protocol
Page 61 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Page 62 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Appendix II
Appendix II Certification Path Models for Building Large PKIs
Page 63 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Appendix II Certification Path Models for Building Large PKIs
Page 64 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Appendix II Certification Path Models for Building Large PKIs
Page 65 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Appendix II Certification Path Models for Building Large PKIs
Page 66 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Page 67 GAO- 01- 277 Fedeal PKI Initiatives
Appendix III
Page 68 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Appendix IV
Appendix IV Comments From the General Services Administration
Page 69 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Page 70 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Glossary Page 71 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Glossary Page 72 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Glossary Page 73 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Glossary Page 74 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Glossary Page 75 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Page 76 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
Related GAO Products Page 77 GAO- 01- 277 Federal PKI Initiatives
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