Alliance formed to secure PCs for e-commerce

Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel and Microsoft have formed the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance, which aims to develop standard security technologies for use in personal computers, the companies announced Monday.

The goal of the effort is to allay security concerns among consumers and businesses and make them feel more comfortable with using their PCs for electronic-business transactions.

Although numerous security technologies and standards already exist, firms trying to manage networks of PCs lack a common security standard to simplify the deployment, use and management of security in the network, the TCPA said in a statement.

The alliance plans to create a new hardware and software specification that will complement existing technologies and enhance security at the level of the platform hardware, BIOS (basic input/output system) and operating system. Such a "base-level security standard" currently does not exist, according to the TCPA.

The alliance aims to create a specification proposal by the second half of 2000 that will be licensed openly to the industry. Other technology firms are invited to join the five-member alliance and help develop the standards.

Areas under investigation include secure storage of confidential information, generation of random numbers for creating public and private encryption keys and electronic signing of data used to authenticate the identity of the sender.

The group will also look at ways to enhance virus detection to validate beyond the software level; check the hardware BIOS, master boot record and operating system; and supply platform integrity information.

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James Niccolai

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