HP to debut PC security push

Only weeks after Intel unveiled plans to spur Internet-commerce applications by improving computer security, Hewlett-Packard will join the bandwagon this week when it unveils an initiative, called ProtectTools, to increase security within a network. As part of the initiative, HP will optimise all Vectra desktop PCs, OmniBook notebook PCs, and Kayak PC workstations to use smart-card readers from Gemplus or Schlumberger.

Only weeks after Intel unveiled plans to spur Internet-commerce applications by improving computer security, Hewlett-Packard will join the bandwagon this week when it unveils an initiative, called ProtectTools, to increase security within a network.

As part of the initiative, HP will optimise all Vectra desktop PCs, OmniBook notebook PCs, and Kayak PC workstations to use smart-card readers from Gemplus or Schlumberger.

HP's ProtectTools corporate security strategy extends from the client to the firewall, says Achim Kuttler, marketing manager for HP's Commercial Computing division. For example, IT managers can expand their networks to link with outside partners and give new employees secure network access.

As part of its security effort, HP next week will debut a security-optimised desktop, the Vectra VL. With prices starting at US$2,499, the PC uses a 350MHz to 450MHz Intel Pentium II CPU, a Matrox Millennium G200 Accelerated Graphics Port 2X graphics card, a 6.4Gb to 10.1Gb disk drive, and a SCSI subsystem.

The Vectra VL also offers HP TopTools management software, which lets IS managers centrally view PC clients that have smart-card readers.

The Vectra VL comes with a master pass key system that lets IT managers configure one master PC pass key to access all Vectra PCs for routine hardware upgrades. IT managers also can remotely lock key components, including keyboards, power switches, and floppy drives.

HP is taking a different approach than Intel on PC security. Kuttler pointed out that smart cards store sensitive information on the card itself, unlike biometric user-authentication products, which store data within a system database, where it can be illegally accessed.

However, Intel thinks biometrics, including fingerprint recognition, may prove valuable. The company has invested in Veridicom, a Lucent spin-off that is shipping a fingerprint recognition chip that uses technology developed by Lucent's Bell Labs.

Veridicom is working with Intel to incorporate interfaces for biometrics into the Common Data Security Architecture (CDSA), an infrastructure for data security on PCs, workstations, and servers, according to Thomas Rowley, Veridicom's president and chief executive officer. The Open Group adopted Intel's CDSA 2.0 as an industry standard.

"Fingerprint technology is a real alternative that people will soon use on a regular basis," Rowley said. "Fingerprints are much harder to steal than passwords."

One analyst agreed.

"It is much easier for an intruder to steal your password than to steal your finger," said Jim Balderston, an analyst at Zona Research, in Redwood City, California.

Products using Veridicom's technology are expected in early 1999, Rowley said.

According to Rowley, computer security will be the focus of the next Intel Developer Forum next year.

At the Intel Developer Forum last month, Craig Barrett, Intel president and chief executive officer, told technologists that in 1999 Intel will add security features to its hardware in an effort to spur I-commerce applications.

At Internet World in New York next week, Intel will host a panel session with AT&T, Cisco, and IBM to discuss implementation of Business Quality Messaging and other technologies to increase security in I-commerce.

Hewlett-Packard Co., in Palo Alto, California, is at www.hp.com. Intel Corp., in Santa Clara, California, is at www.intel.com. Veridicom Inc., in Santa Clara, is at www.veridicom.com.

SIDEBAR: Keeping a Finger on Security

By InfoWorld staff

Securing PC data and Internet-commerce transactions may soon be as simple as touching a fingerprint-reader pad. The Veridicom chip connects with software that stores data about a fingerprint, not the entire image, to reduce the amount of information that must be stored.

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