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Comdex coverage by CNN and

PC vendors to beef up security

November 18, 1998
Web posted at: 2:09 PM ET

by Andy Santoni


(IDG) -- LAS VEGAS -- PC suppliers at Comdex, among them Hewlett-Packard and IBM, detailed their plans to follow Intel's lead and add security features to their systems.

Because of user demand, "security is something OEMs are taking a hard look at," said Mike Feibus, an analyst at Mercury Research, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

IBM, for one, is concentrating on asset management, said James McGann, director of product marketing for desktop systems at IBM's Personal Systems Group, in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
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When IT managers select systems, "purchase price is not the driver," McGann said. A key issue, though, is protecting the PC itself, he said.

"The overriding issue is asset management," McGann said.

One way IBM has improved asset management is to install an RF transceiver in some of its models so that an IT manager can read asset data from the PC using a handheld device, then write user information into the PC.

The technology is an extension of Alert-on-LAN, developed by the IBM/Intel Advanced Manageability Alliance. Alert-on-LAN provides notification of conditions such as a system unplugged from the power source, a system unplugged from the network, chassis intrusion, processor removal, system environmental errors such as high temperature, and a system that is hung. It is implemented in IBM PC300 and Intellistation systems.

In addition, IBM and Intel have announced joint efforts to promote industry adoption of Internet security features that work across multiple computing platforms.

As part of this effort, IBM and Intel will promote the adoption of Intel's Common Data Security Architecture specification. Today, many security solutions are proprietary, making interoperability an obstacle for companies that want to conduct electronic business securely.

IBM and Intel also will conduct joint activities that will help educate the information technology community on using CDSA in their environments. The two companies will sponsor a series of programs that will include multivendor seminars, interoperability forums, technology development workshops, demonstrations, and publication of technical documentation.

For its part, HP is optimizing its corporate PCs, notebooks, and workstations for security based on smart cards and other technologies, said Regis Duret, worldwide manageability program manager at HP's Commercial Computing Division, in Grenoble, France.

For example, smart cards can guarantee that any authorized user can access a given PC, but only a small number of users can access certain programs or data on the machine.

Security will be enhanced by biometrics such as fingerprint readers or voice recognition, especially on PCs shared by a number of users, Duret said. He demonstrated an HP PC tied to a fingerprint reader made by Veridicom, a company in which Intel has invested.

Intel is not the only CPU supplier with an interest in security. Advanced Micro Devices at Comdex was showing systems built around its K6 CPU family that used security coprocessors from NAble Technologies, in Danvers, Mass.

The NClick security coprocessor integrates a cryptographic controller with secure memory, a keyboard or keypad controller, and a smart card controller.

Andy Santoni is a senior writer at InfoWorld.

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