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I2-NEWS: CREN and MIT Announce Certificate Authority Service

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  • From: "Greg Wood" <>
  • To: <>
  • Subject: I2-NEWS: CREN and MIT Announce Certificate Authority Service
  • Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 09:13:54 -0500
  • Importance: Normal

New service enables secure resource-sharing among institutions and providers
over Internet

Service facilitates access in support of teaching and research

For Immediate Release
Contact: David Hogarth, MIT Information Systems
OR Dr. Judith Boettcher, CREN

CAMBRIDGE, MA, November 17, 1999 -- Today, the Corporation for Research and
Educational Networking (CREN) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT) are announcing a significant development in Internet technology
service that supports secure resource-sharing among institutions. The two
organizations are launching a new, top-level Certificate Authority Service
offered to institutions of higher education by CREN, with MIT’s technical
support, which reviews, validates, and issues digital certificates that
campuses use for secure transactions over the network.

In making the announcement, Ira Fuchs, President and CEO of CREN, as
as Vice President for Computing and Information Technology at Princeton,
said, “I am delighted that CREN is taking a leadership role in launching
this service today. Supporting resource-sharing among institutions of
higher education will enable students, faculty, and staff to make
significant advances in their teaching and research over the Internet.”
An essential part of the current infrastructure for conducting secure
transactions over the World Wide Web, digital certificates verify both the
authenticity of the sender of an electronic message and the integrity of
that message, signaling to the recipient that it has not been altered.

Serving as the trusted third-party for institutions and resource providers,
the new certificate authority service will issue institutional certificates,
allowing individuals at CREN subscriber institutions to share online
information and electronic resources in a cryptographically secure
environment. By digitally signing the certificates issued by campus
authorities, the service eliminates the need for each organization to
establish secure relationships with every other institution on a
case-by-case basis. Users at different institutions will be able to
automatically verify the authenticity of the certificates they receive from
each other’s sites, simply by configuring their browser software for CREN’s
top-level certificate authority. This will facilitate inter-institutional
relationships and support authenticated access to online information
resources such as specialized databases and digital information resources.
The service was developed at MIT, which served as one of three pilot
institutions, along with Georgia Institute of Technology and Princeton

To initiate the new certificate authority service, network security expert
Jeff Schiller, Manager of Network Services at MIT and principal architect of
this service, will generate an initial CREN “key” or root certificate, “cut”
a private key, and generate one institutional certificate for each of the
three pilot institutions. Once an institution has completed a process of
authority registration with CREN, MIT will handle the certificate issuance
process, reviewing each request for a certificate and then, if valid,
issuing another certificate to the institution. In addition to providing the
technical operations for the service, MIT’s Network Operations Team is also
developing software to automate the technically painstaking process which
involves numerous steps for the proper exchange of certificates and
activation of hardware.

MIT’s Assistant Provost and Director of Academic Computing, M.S. Vijay Kumar
commented, “Extending the concept of secure transactions from within
institutions to across institutions, the CREN certificate authority takes us
one step closer to building and accessing a richer repository of shared
resources and collaborations.”

One content provider who will be using the new service is the Journal
Storage Project or JSTOR, a not-for-profit organization that is building a
searchable digital database with the complete backfiles of academic
journals. Spencer Thomas, JSTOR’s Technical Coordinator, said, “As a
trusted member of the academic community, CREN offers a reliable and
affordable solution for authorizing digital certificates. Providing remote
access to scholarly resources is one of the more vexing problems facing both
users and providers of electronic information at colleges and universities.
JSTOR is extremely pleased to participate in this important initiative.”

Another endorsement of the service came from Ken Klingenstein, Director of
Information Technology Services, University of Colorado at Boulder, and
Middleware Project Director of UCAID (University Corporation for Advanced
Internet Development), the organization responsible for Internet2. “This is
an important step towards building a national interoperable higher education
security infrastructure,” stated Klingenstein. “With the CREN certificate
authority mechanism as an anchor, we can begin the substantive work of
establishing trust relationships within our community and enabling new
institutional resource-sharing. Many agendas will be advanced with this

About CREN: Established in 1984, CREN is a non-profit member organization
that supports the technical and practical information needs and tools of
networking and information technology professionals. Current members number
over 225, and range from small, private institutions such as Smith College
to large public institutions such as the University of Wisconsin.

About MIT: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the world’s
preeminent research universities, dedicated to advancing knowledge and
educating students in science, tech-nology, and other areas of scholarship
that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. It is
known for rigorous academic programs, cutting-edge research, a diverse
campus community, and its longstanding commitment to working with the public
and private sectors to bring new knowledge to bear on the world’s great
challenges. URL:

For more information, contact
Judith Boettcher, Executive Director, CREN

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  • I2-NEWS: CREN and MIT Announce Certificate Authority Service, Greg Wood, 11/18/1999

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