Digital ID keeps cyberspace safe
THE Post Office is making substantial investments in extending its security focus to include its IT systems.
A sophisticated digital certification infrastructure is being implemented which will provide the safety and confidentiality of electronic messaging and business transactions.
A substantial budget has been set aside for this project, which will see the Post Office set up as its own certificate authority, issuing digital IDs to clients and business associates under the auspices of the South African Certification Agency (SACA).
Commenting on the rationale for the investment, information security analyst George Tsafandakis says it comes in tandem with recent initiatives in electronic commerce, and its current upgrade to third-party payment systems.
"We are moving into areas of electronic business communications where proof of identity is vital," Tsafandakis explains. "In the real world, physical contact with your business partners helps establish trust and accountability. In the virtual world, however, that direct contact is not always available and one needs a mechanism that will allow you to trust the origins and authenticity of any electronic communications you receive.
"The digital certification process provides that trust."
Digital certification helps establish proof of identity in cyberspace in much the same way as passports or identity books do in the physical world.
The digital certificates (or digital IDs) rely on state-of-the-art public key cryptography to bind each user's identity to a pair of electronic keys that can be used to sign and encrypt digital information. By binding a public key with its owner's identity, the digital ID provides assurance that key holders are who they say they are, making it difficult to impersonate a legitimate key holder or to intercept or compromise in any way the integrity of their data transfers.
IT experts are now widely punting the technology as an effective means of ensuring truly private communications over what is, after all, an extremely open public network.
"We regard it as an essential component of our electronic commerce and communications infrastructure," says Tsafandakis. "It is important to remember that security is a managed process, and digital certification technology helps to facilitate that process."
SACA has established a world-class facility in SA for issuing and managing public digital ID services and can provide specially tailored solutions where needed.