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FIDO Alliance gains momentum, adds government support

Agencies from U.S. and U.K. governments now support the FIDO Alliance and its open standards for passwordless authentication.

The FIDO Alliance this week announced U.S. and U.K. governments have officially joined the industry consortium.

The alliance, which supports and promotes the FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) open standards for passwordless authentication, introduced a new government membership program that will allow public sector agencies and departments to join the alliance and contribute to FIDO's development along with private sector organizations. The first two such agencies to join the program are the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which handles the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), and the U.K.'s Office of the Cabinet.

Speaking at the Cloud Identity Summit (CIS) 2015 in San Diego on Tuesday, Brett McDowell, executive director of the FIDO Alliance, said the government membership program was a major step for the alliance and FIDO adoption.

"We're excited about this. Governments are obviously very interested in strong authentication and securing cyberspace, and they're seeing the potential that FIDO has," McDowell said during his presentation.

Brendon Wilson, director of product management at Nok Nok Labs, an authentication vendor based in Palo Alto, Calif., and FIDO Alliance board member, said government participation in the alliance is a key milestone.

"I think we need more support and involvement from defense agencies," Wilson said, "but this is just the beginning of the program."

The addition of NIST and U.K. Office of the Cabinet is just one of many recent developments that have helped drive momentum for the alliance since the FIDO 1.0 specifications were released in December. Intel announced last week it had joined the FIDO Alliance as a board level member.

In addition, the alliance celebrated a number of firsts this year: Microsoft in February announced Windows 10 will feature FIDO technology, which marked the first major operating system support for the standards; in March, Qualcomm announced FIDO support for its Snapdragon Sense biometrics technology for mobile devices; and Japan's NTT Docomo joined the alliance last month and became the first wireless network operator to roll out FIDO technology for its authentication services.

"2015 is the year we refer to internally as the year of adoption," McDowell said during his presentation at CIS 2015. "And it's living up to that expectation."

The alliance also introduced a FIDO certification program last month to validate products and services that support the authentication standards, while existing alliance members such as Google and Yubico have expanded their support for FIDO in more products and services.

"It's amazing how quickly it's moved. I think it speaks to the desire for better authentication methods," Wilson said. "I don't think we'd be where we are today without companies like Google, PayPal, Samsung, and Microsoft stepping in."

Next Steps

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