One ID for Military Benefits, Bank Accounts -- and Movies?

Maksim Kabakou/

NIST funds test of a single, secure login to access government forms and secure consumer sites.

A Virginia Web services company has received a $1.2 million grant to test a single, secure login designed to let members of the military community access government benefits and obtain consumer discounts, such as vacation deals. The National Institute of Standards and Technology announced the award to Inc. this week, as part of a White House online privacy initiative. 

The application would build on an existing password tool, called Troop ID, according to NIST. The current technology allows verified veterans, Pentagon personnel, and their relatives to sign onto commercial websites, such as the Regal Entertainment Group and Telluride Ski Resort webpages.

The new system would use Troop ID for accessing secure sites maintained by banks, health care organizations and government agencies -- such as, for example, college financial aid forms, NIST officials said.

Today, the tool works with an email and password combination that the user creates while registering. The vision for the future is a complex, or "multi-factor," credential combining perhaps biometrics and passcodes delivered by text message. Project developers said they have not yet decided what types of identification the credential will include. 

"At a time when passwords are the soft underbelly of the Internet," with an estimated 76 percent of computer breaches caused by bad password hygiene, "the Troop ID pilot will help Americans, the military community and their families access more secure, privacy-enhancing multi-factor identity solutions that they can use in lieu of passwords in their everyday transactions online," Jeremy Grant, NIST senior executive advisor for identity management, said on Wednesday.

In August, Canada-based SecureKey Technologies Inc. won a $15 million one-year contract to try out a network that would link consumer and agency logins. Troop ID is expected to connect to this system, called the Federal Cloud Credentialing Exchange, according to NIST.

The larger White House initiative, called the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, is a plan for a worldwide online login network, akin to a credit card system, where computer users can access separate sites  without resubmitting personal data. 

(Image via Maksim Kabakou/