Identity in a Zero Trust Architecture

In the previous post I said I was happy that the new CFO of Pomcor, Ken Cone, has experience with government contracting, as his experience may help us apply for and manage government funding for our reasearch on identity and authentication protocols. Identity is an essential element of cybersecurity, and Executive Order 14028 has recognized that cybersecurity is an essential element of national and economic security.

Here I want to add that identity is essential, more specifically, in modern “zero trust” cybersecurity architectures whose importance is recognized by the Federal Government. The White House has stated in the OMB memorandum M-22-09 that a zero trust approach to security is needed today to provide a “defensible architecture” in the current threat environment. The Department of Defense (DoD) has published a Zero Trust Reference Architecture, and M-22-09 directs Federal Agencies to move towards zero trust cybersecurity principles.

This has implications for identity. As stated in the Reference Architecture and cited in M-22-09, “The foundational tenet of the Zero Trust Model is that no actor, system, network, or service operating outside or within the security perimeter is trusted. Instead, we must verify anything and everything attempting to establish access.” This means that secure identification is an essential requirement of zero trust architecture.

To meet this requirement, M-22-09 calls for multi-factor authentication (MFA); not the usual MFA, however, but rather what the memorandum calls “phishing-resistant MFA”, where phishing resistance is achieved by using a secret that is not shared with the relying party. That means a private key.

Thus the memorandum is calling for cryptographic authentication, which is what Pomcor has been working on for years, and is working on right now. I look forward to Pomcor contributing to the transition towards zero trust in the Federal Government and to the adoption by the Government and the Private Sector of cryptographic authentication methods that provide strong security.

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