NEW YORK, Dec. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A team of leading online-identity and technology providers, led by Criterion Systems and including Verizon, has been awarded a federal grant to develop a pilot program to test new solutions that will create a seamless, more secure online identity system. The new system will help enhance the protection of Internet users from identity theft and cybercrime. The grant funding is provided by the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, a public- and private-sector initiative launched by the White House in 2011, which is working to create an Internet-identity ecosystem that improves the privacy, security and convenience of sensitive online transactions. The initiative is part of the U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology. Verizon, one of two providers of high-assurance identity credentials on the pilot program team, will use its Universal Identity Services platform to prove a safer approach for Internet users. The program will help determine the feasibility of providing cost-effective and easy-to-use "trust elevation," or validation efforts, for online credentials. With trust elevation, individuals will be able to use one set of credentials to access any website, including those with sensitive data such as online banking and medical records. Trust elevation uses a username and password in combination with additional information to electronically validate the user's online identity. The validation process would work like this: To obtain initial access to a website, a user would be asked to provide a username and password. Then, depending on the type of online transaction involved, a series of automatic validation steps would occur. For example, when making a purchase, a user might be asked to provide additional information – such as the user's fingerprint, recent financial transaction or mobile phone – or answer a question that the online merchant can verify. If the correct information is provided, the online transaction would proceed; if not, the online merchant would either cancel the order or contact the purchaser to confirm his identity. Such a system would strengthen the username-password validation and eliminate the need to maintain multiple website-specific logons.