What the new NIST Standards Mean for Your Agency

March 7, 2018 by Keir Breitenfeld

June 2018 will mark the one-year anniversary of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) release of Special Publication 800-63-3, Digital Identity Guidelines. While federal agencies are the most directly impacted, this guidance signals a seismic shift in identity proofing across the entire ecosystem of consumers, private sector businesses and public sector agencies. It’s the clearest claim I’ve seen to date that traditional, and rather basic, personally identifiable information (PII) verification should no longer be trusted for remote user interaction. For those of us in the fraud and identity space, this isn’t a new revelation, but one we as an industry have been dealing with for years. As the data breach floodgates continue to be pushed further open, PII is a commodity for the fraudsters, evident in PII prices on the dark web, which are often lower than your favorite latte.

Identity-related schemes have increased due to fraud attacks shifting away from card compromise (due to the U.S. rollout of chip-and-signature cards), double-digit growth in online and mobile consumer channels, and high-profile fraud events within both the public and private sector. It’s no shock that NIST has taken a sledgehammer to previous guidance around identity proofing and replaced it with an aggressive and rather challenging set of requirements seemingly founded in the assumption that all PII (names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, etc.) is either compromised or easily can be compromised in the future. So where does this leave us?

I applaud the pragmatic approach to the new NIST standards and consider it a signal to all of us in the identity marketplace. It’s aggressive and aspirational in raising the bar in identity proofing and management. I welcome the challenge in serving our public sector clients, as we have done for nearly a decade. Our innovative approach to layered levels of identity verification, validation, risk assessment and monitoring adhere to the recommendations of the new NIST standards. I do, however, recommend that any institution applying these standards to their own processes and applications ensure they place equal focus on comparable alternatives for those addressable populations and users who are likely to either opt out of, or fail, initial verification steps stringently aligned with the new requirements. While too early to accurately forecast, it’s relatively safe to assume that the percentage of the population “falling out of the process” may easily be counted in the double digits. It’s only through advanced analytics and technology reliant on a significant breadth and depth of identity data and observations that we can provide trust and confidence across such a diverse population in age, demographics, expectations and access.