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Dell soups up security service

Dell Computer wants to help customers switch on better Windows 2000 security, with a new service that activates 50 default settings in the OS.

Dell Computer wants to help business customers switch on better Windows security.

The company on Wednesday announced a service designed to activate 50 security-related default settings in Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system at the factory after a PC is built. The service, which will cost $20 per PC, is being offered in response to growing concerns about computer vulnerabilities among companies, a Dell representative said.

The default settings follow Windows 2000 security benchmarks set by the Center for Internet Security (CIS). Using CIS benchmarks can help companies set minimum standards for protection, according to CIS.

While it is possible for companies to obtain the benchmark information and update their PCs' settings themselves, Dell believes that many customers will opt for its service to save time and effort, a company representative said.

Dell will offer the service through its Custom Factory Integration program, which offers a wide range of custom-tailored software installations--from Linux to home-brewed bundles of applications and drivers software--at the factory on new PCs or servers.

The company said it will offer a similar service for Windows XP later in the year. At some point, Dell may make the security service a checkbox item on its online product configuration tool.

Meanwhile, some PC makers are choosing to focus on adding security-oriented hardware to their PCs.

IBM and Hewlett-Packard both offer PCs with built-in security hardware that can encrypt files. IBM has equipped its desktops and notebooks with an Embedded Security Subsystem for some time. The subsystem uses a security chip to encrypt data, among other things. HP recently added a similar chip to its desktops.

Dell does not currently offer a similar hardware-based security system for its PCs. However, like IBM and HP, it offers smart-card readers, which help boost security by better managing passwords and verifying people's identities.