RCMP extends PKI certification

A $1 million investment into security software will allow for faster and easier information sharing among police forces in Canada, the RCMP said Monday.

The money, to come from the post-Sept. 11 security budget, will be spent

on a contract extension with Addison, Tex.-based Entrust Inc. to outfit the country’s municipal and provincial police forces with software and services. Brian O’Higgins, Entrust founder and chief technology officer, said the RCMP is essentially buying licenses for municipal and provincial police forces.

Seven thousand of the RCMP’s 22,000 employees have already become certified Entrust users through a separate initiative, the Government of Canada’s PKI program. RCMP Sergeant Paul Marsh said he expects all the force’s employees to be certified users by the end of 2002. But the extension announced Monday will increase the number of certified users within the RCMP and municipal and provincial forces to 75,000.

Marsh could not provide a timeframe for a rollout to municipal and provincial forces. But he said once the Entrust secure e-mail, desktop/laptop encryption and virtual private network (VPN) solutions are in use by agencies across the country, communication between departments will be much more fluid.

Currently, the RCMP uses secure phone lines and secure fax machines for communication between divisions and with other police forces, and a secure private network for internal-only communications.

“”It will be more accessible, because not everyone has a secure fax,”” Marsh said. “”It will be much easier for us to communicate. It’s really an electronic identity . . . which allows you to encrypt your material and similar software will allow the person at the other end to decrypt it.””

Marsh said the RCMP plans to expand its use of Entrust system, which he said is more secure than even protected phone lines because of encryption, to include remote laptop users and the secure transmission of electronic forms.

For Entrust, Monday’s contract extension will see the first inter-jurisdictional use of the company’s software, which O’Higgins said is used in some form by law enforcement agencies in most North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member countries.

Entrust has had a multilevel relationship with the Canadian federal government for three years, providing software for the Secure Channel portion of the Feds’ Government On-line initiative, as well as Government of Canada PKI.

O’Higgins said Entrust’s multi-level relationship with the federal government will allow municipal and provincial police forces to eventually run their own PKI through Secure Channel.

“”Initially, the RCMP is going to operate on behalf of the police,”” he said. “”If a police force wants to run their own PKI, they could. The question is, do you want to do it yourself, or do you want to have someone else do it for you?””

O’Higgins also said the inter-jurisdictional use brought about by Monday’s announcement will encourage interest from Washington.

“”The U.S. federal government is going to be extremely envious,”” he said. “”Canada is very well organized.””

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