Enabling veterans to prove online identity
Troop ID is part of the ID.me identity network and a digital authentication engine for verifying active military members and veterans online. The system enables users to both share and protect their information and sensitive data.
“ID.me is essentially PayPal for digital identity where we’ve created a digital ID card for members of the military community, first responders, students, other affinity groups,” said co-founder and COO Matthew Thompson. “Individuals can tie attributes about themselves and share that in a privacy enhancing and user-centric way across the web, across a network of relying parties to access different benefits and online services.”
ID.me is largely a veteran-run organization. Thompson served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He spent 11 years in the Army before attending Harvard Business School. He met another Army Ranger and combat veteran at Harvard named Blake Hall, and together they hatched the idea for Troop ID in 2009.
“We really connected around this challenge that service members and veterans had accessing benefits online,” said Thompson. “We saw all these examples where the benefits were going offline but not online, and we said there has to be a better way.”
Veterans who want to take advantage of retail discounts and special services have been stuck carrying around a document – DD Form 214 – that Thompson likens to a birth certificate and a resume. The form is the discharge paper every military service member receives and it contains more than enough information for an identity thief.
There is no federal veterans identity card. While the DD 214 is a unique way for service members to prove they were in the military, it presents a tremendous risk for fraud and misuse. Thus, Troop ID was born. “For 24 million members of the veteran community, digital anonymity prevents meaningful interaction online and the current status quo really creates issues around access, liability, and awareness,” Thompson says. “Digital identity solves all of those issues by minimizing the data that’s shared.”
Troop ID has more than 250,000 users, with a thousand new users added each day. The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace pilot award will speed up product development as well as commercial and government adoption. It will also be used to more quickly bolster the product beyond what is now essentially a Level 1 credential.
“The ultimate goal is for us to achieve what’s known as a Level of Assurance 2 and Level of Assurance 3 within the FICAM Trust Framework,” says Glenn Schoonover, director of information, security and privacy for ID.me. “That will then enable us to not only have commercial transactions but to do business with the federal government and serve as a federated credential that an individual can use on a daily basis.”
Schoonover served on active duty, was the first chief of network security at the Pentagon and has been doing cyber security for almost 20 years. He says the company is taking extraordinary steps to protect client information.
“We are applying federal standards even though we’re a commercial organization because we want to ensure that the data is encrypted from the second the member connects to our network,” Schoonover says. “Identifying information is encrypted in transit, it’s encrypted at rest and we apply federal standards to all of our business processes.”
Troop ID was awarded $1.2 million for the first year of the pilot project, and if all goes as planned, another $1.6 million is available for year two.