Can Digital Identity Solve the Government’s Custom Software Problem?

Posted January 8, 2018

Can Digital Identity Solve the Government’s Custom Software Problem?

With an eye toward overhauling the federal government’s aging technology infrastructure, President Trump has officially signed the Modernizing Government Technology Act into law.

But, in the age of digital identity and customer-centric online services, Washington D.C. may have to give up its addiction to costly, custom software if it ever hopes to streamline and secure government operations.

Just ask former Obama administration CIO Tony Scott, who helped shape the legislation.

Writing recently in FCW magazine, Scott bemoans what he says is a shocking dependence on code that has been written (and re-written) over many years to support the federal government’s ever-changing specifications.

“Nearly everywhere I looked…the business applications of the federal government were invariably (and quite alarmingly) always based on custom code,” Scott wrote. “It has been my experience that custom code is almost always the most expensive option.”

In Scott’s view, there’s better, more efficient ways to deliver a secure, customer-first user experience. And I couldn’t agree more.

An End to ‘Good Enough for Government Work’?

According to Scott, much of Washington’s custom code habit stems from “shiny object syndrome,” the desire to deploy the latest and greatest tools, even before the underlying technology has matured.

Never mind the fact that standardized, commercially available applications and platforms can save taxpayers an enormous amount of money while providing greater flexibility. “In most cases, there are multiple apps that will satisfy the need,” Scott added.

In testimony before the House committee developing the legislation, Scott also pointed out another challenge. Beyond the costs associated with operating and maintaining legacy systems, he said, a failure to modernize means “security vulnerabilities and other risks will continue to grow.”

Target: The American Resident

The fact is, today’s digital benefits, tax, financial, regulatory and information sharing services make government more efficient and provide key benefits to American citizens. As they are further modernized, they must also guarantee instant and secure access to those services, which are central to our economic system and national security.

But that’s no small task. Thanks to a continuous stream of corporate and government data breaches, cybercriminals, terror groups and nation states now have access to more than 9 billion stolen identity credentials—names, addresses, social security numbers, login credentials, PIN codes and more.

With these credentials in hand, cybercriminals can take out fraudulent government loans, divert benefits payments, steal sensitive regulatory data, and even gain access to top-secret military systems and critical national infrastructure.

But, there is good news. According to a growing number of government organizations, today’s digital identity-based smart authentication solutions are changing all that.

21st-Century Security

Put simply, SaaS-based digital identity solutions instantly recognize legitimate users and block out threats using shared, real-time global intelligence that connects the dots between the continuously changing associations between people, their devices, locations, credentials and online behaviors in real time.

One organization that has deployed digital identity solutions from ThreatMetrix reports that it is now able to validate the true identity and location of users in the blink of an eye, reducing fraud rates by 40 percent or more. And, they did this in just a matter of weeks.

In addition to shared intelligence through the world’s largest Digital Identity Network, the ThreatMetrix solution leverages advanced behavioral analytics and a clear-box approach to machine learning to deliver fast, frictionless access to government systems and services, while keeping fraudsters and other adversaries out in the cold – all without requiring government IT teams to write (and endlessly rewrite) code.

A True Call to Arms?

It’s unclear whether these cloud-based solutions will really be enough to break Washington’s dependence on costly custom code, much less meet the mandates established in the IT modernization law.

But there’s cause for optimism. In a December 13 White House report on the new law, the Trump administration committed itself to leveraging commercially available innovations to help the federal government “provide better service to its citizens in the most cost-effective and secure manner.”

Here’s hoping it’s enough to assure Tony Scott—and the American people—that the government means business.

To learn more, check out our exclusive solution brief on how digital identity-based smart authentication can help protect government programs while enhancing the user experience.

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