Veteran Discuss: Newest Authentication Traits for Service Members within the Subject

July 6, 2023

Q&A with Air Power Reserve Col. Tri Trinh (ret.) and Navy Reserve Senior Chief Petty Officer Alex Antrim (ret.).

Q: What was your private expertise as a member of the navy, and what made you look into non-CAC authentication options? 


In 2019, I used to be a Colonel within the Air Power Reserve on full-time navy orders working on the Pentagon underneath the Secretary of the Air Power Chief Information Workplace. I helped deploy the Air Power Join enterprise cell app as a Spark Tank mission. AF Join had a CAC function that used a cell CAC reader and bodily Widespread Entry Card (CAC) to authenticate into CAC-enabled websites. The footprint of a cell CAC reader and CAC card protruding of a cellphone and pill bought outdated quick.

With the YubiKey from Yubico, I used to be in a position to make use of the DISA Purebred Registration Utility to enroll and provision my YubiKey with my CAC certificates and PIN.

I used to be dual-hatted as a Squadron Commander on the time with a authorities issued iPhone. I turned in my authorities iPhone and used my private cellphone to entry .mil e-mail. Having to hold an additional cellphone for e-mail after I already had entry with a YubiKey was a burden I didn’t want, so it actually made my life simpler. 


As a Navy Reservist, I used to be not issued a authorities laptop computer or cell machine to carry out military-based duties. Reservists need to depend on their very own units when not in drilling standing.  This meant shopping for my very own sensible card reader – generally multiple –  so I might use my CAC. With various USB connections on my units, it was exhausting to maintain the fitting dongles on the prepared. 

Once I discovered that YubiKeys had been authorised to carry DoD-issued credentials, just like my CAC, I jumped on the probability to place one to make use of. I used to be capable of finding a Purebred agent in my Navy Reserve unit that helped provision my FIPS YubiKey with Purebred credentials. I used to be immediately impressed with how simple the YubiKey was used to authenticate into the Navy workstations in my unit’s pc lab.  Once I plugged the YubiKey into the Navy desktop pc, it noticed the credentials, requested for PIN, and I used to be logged into the workstation.

I had the identical simple expertise with YubiKey on my private laptop computer, so I might examine e-mail and attend Groups conferences in between drill weekends. The final take a look at was for my private cell phone which was profitable too. I used to be in a position to shelve my sensible card readers and get to work. 

How has authentication modified within the armed forces, and the place do you see it going within the subsequent decade?


The navy is commonly gradual to maneuver on new authentication requirements, so aside from the shift from CAC credentials to the PIV commonplace (aligning with the federal authorities’s PKI), service members should nonetheless depend on sensible playing cards to authenticate to units and providers. Nonetheless, I can affirm folks at excessive ranges are wanting carefully on the most modern FIDO2 commonplace and are working by means of testing. I hope and anticipate that quickly there shall be an approval doc coming from the DoD CIO workplace. Flexibility goes to be actually vital to service members. A uniformed individual shouldn’t have to fret about a number of CAC readers or what machine is inside attain.  All they should have is their provisioned YubiKey, plug it into their machine, and conduct enterprise as standard.


The excellent news is that YubiKey is a multi-protocol authenticator, so it could actually carefully comply with the evolution path that DoD is on. As soon as DoD provides the inexperienced mild on deploying FIDO2 credentials for stronger authentication, YubiKey is already FIDO2 compliant and the transition must be seamless. 

How does a hardware-based authentication machine just like the YubiKey make service members’ lives simpler? 


One vital and constructive distinction between the YubiKey and the CAC is that no figuring out and amplifying info is on the YubiKey. The CAC is immediately recognizable all over the world as a type of identification for members of the U.S. Armed Companies.  Service members serving abroad are taught to mix in and never draw consideration to themselves (for good cause). However attempt doing that when a DoD identification card is hanging out of a laptop computer or cell phone whenever you’re in public at a espresso store! If it’s a dongle, or one thing bigger like a reader, there’s a a lot greater probability that it breaks. A low profile machine just like the YubiKey finally ends up being an enormous value-add to these serving exterior the continental US. 


Undoubtedly agree. And there are a selection of different causes you may want extra flexibility and pace whenever you’re abroad. For instance, you solely get one CAC – in case you lose it, you’re weeks of downtime when you battle to get a brand new one issued. However when you have a backup YubiKey in your equipment, and also you’re in a position to authenticate with it, you’ve solved that drawback. Even in case you don’t have a backup helpful, getting a alternative could be carried out same-day, plus some delivery time, as you received’t need to undergo the CAC-replacement channels. 

Talking of “low profile,” are there different safety issues service members have which might be averted when you’ll be able to authenticate with no reader? 


Effectively, as I discussed, the port connections on completely different units and laptops usually require extra readers than one individual needs to hold whereas touring or working in a non-military-base surroundings. Some readers have even been recognized to hold malware, as they don’t seem to be required to have the identical compliance checks as a YubiKey. So if a service member unwittingly will get a reader from some unauthorized supplier, there’s a major danger that it might be compromised and create a vulnerability. 


Proper. CAC stays a really safe channel for authentication, particularly when it’s used at sanctioned workstations or on base. Whenever you’re speaking about getting access to a navy set up, or proof of eligibility for healthcare and navy advantages (e.g. commissary, BX/PX/NEX, billeting), then you definitely’re nonetheless going to go along with CAC. It’s not going anyplace.

However we reside in a way more cell work surroundings world than we did 20 years in the past. So it’s value discussing how we are able to increase present authentication in several contexts, particularly cell environments. How can we add worth and make issues simpler to make use of for the rank-and-file servicemember who could also be working at a number of websites, that’s what we’re engaged on enhancing. 

What different purposes would robust non-CAC authentication have, those we might not instantly take into consideration? 


I feel mission companions are one thing to contemplate. The navy works with so many mission companions that don’t have CAC-enabled skill to authenticate securely. 

DoD needs to take care of safe coalition networks for intelligence and information sharing with mission companions. These networks usually convey new authentication challenges. FIDO2 is an choice to convey phishing-resistant MFA to non-CAC eligible mission companions that must securely authenticate right into a coalition community. 


There’s one other profit for individuals who have already served. When you’re working with a hardware-based key like a YubiKey, that may be carried with you as soon as you might be discharged from the service. So even after you not have a CAC, you should use a YubiKey to go browsing to VA providers, the IRS, or different federal and state companies that assist FIDO2.