The E-Authentication Initiative was created to enable, control and standardize authentication mechanisms over the Internet, between the government and its customers. These customers may be people, businesses or employees.
The Initiative assumes that some services will be more sensitive than others from a security standpoint and defined levels of assurance. The sensitivity of the information being shared across the network and its assurance level determine the requirements for user registration as well as the specific protocols required to protect the information in transit. For the most sensitive information and the highest levels of assurance, a customer will have to provide rigorous proofs of their identity during the registration process and hardware tokens, strong authentication and encryption may be required to protect those credentials and any information that is shared over the Internet.
The Initiative is also consistent with federated identity practices, where the identity provider, the organization that handles registration and binds a proven identity to a set of credentials, is logically separate from the organization that actually provides the services. The infrastructure created from this Initiative will allow customers to use just one set of credentials with different government agencies. And different agencies can trust the assertions of identity providers, without needing their own, separate registration process.