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Credential Management

Credential Service Diagram - Overview of diagram follows in text below. Credential Management is the set of practices that an organization uses to issue, track, update, and revoke credentials for identities within their context.

A CREDENTIAL is authoritative evidence of an individual’s claimed identity. Credentials come in many types, from physical papers and cards (such as a passport or ATM card) to electronic items (such as a password or digital certificate), and often incorporate anti-tamper features. Within the US Federal Government, we have PIV as a credential.

All credentials, no matter what type, associate an identity with an individual (typically via an identifier) and identify the organization that issued it:

  • Your driver’s license includes a license number, your name, and a state seal.

  • An ATM card includes a card number, your name, and a corporate symbol.

  • A PIV credential contains a picture, the issuing agency logo, and cryptographic key pairs

Some credentials indicate authorizations granted to the identity by the issuing organization. For example, a driver’s license includes the authorization to drive a car.

Unlike identities, credentials generally expire. If an identity continues past the expiration date of the credential, a new credential is issued:

  • Your driver’s license expires after so many years and you receive a new one.

  • Your ATM card expires after so many years and you receive a new one.

  • Your PIV credential expires after three to six years and you receive a new one.

A credential that is lost or compromised before it expires may be revoked by the organization that issued it. Credentials can incorporate something you know (such as a password or PIN), something you have (such as a card), or something you are (such as a fingerprint or iris). Some credentials incorporate more than one option, and are referred to as two-factor or three-factor or multi-factor.

As with identity proofing, credentials have different Levels of Assurance depending on the strength required. The credential for accessing your bank account is likely stronger than the credential for accessing your health club.

Credential Management Services

The Credential Management services in the Federal ICAM architecture include Sponsorship, Registration, Issuance, Maintenance, and Revocation.

Credential Service Details Diagram - Service definitions follow in text below.


Formally establishing that a person or entity requires a credential.
Keywords: Sponsor, Authorizing Official, Affiliation, Request


Collecting the information needed from a person or entity to issue them a credential.
Keywords: Enrollment


Transferring a credential to a person or entity.
Keywords: Activation, Token


Maintaining a credential over its life cycle. Keywords: Renewal, Reset, Suspension, Blocking, Reissuance


Withdrawing a credential from a person or entity.
Keywords: Termination