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Hardware demystifies code

Litronic will release its CipherServer, a hardware device that handles cryptographic computations that otherwise slow the performance of Web servers.

Litronic next week will release its CipherServer, a hardware device that handles cryptographic computations that otherwise slow the performance of Web servers.

Because cryptography taxes computer power, transferring these calculations to a peripheral device can significantly speed server performance. CipherServer comes with slots for eight PC cards, each with a processor and memory to handle cryptographic functions.

Today at the Netscape Developers' Conference in New York, Litronic released a beta version of its software developers kit, CryptoOS SDK, to help software engineers integrate cryptography with hardware devices made by Litronic and its competitors. Hardware devices are considered more secure than software-only security because they are more difficult to tamper with.

"CryptoOS SDK is an object-based software interface that allows developers to easily handle different types of cryptographic tokens and software," said Litronic's Robert Noble, senior software engineer. "It can potentially smooth differences between various devices--smart cards, PC cards, and software modules--and simplifies the development of applications which use these tokens."

CryptoOS, available for Unix and Windows platforms, provides an interface to smart card readers, PC card readers, and Litronic's CipherServer. CryptoOS will enable developers to integrate token-based digital signatures, encryption, public key certificates, and secure and portable private key storage seamlessly into existing applications.

"On the Internet, smart cards further enable electronic commerce by enhancing the security and convenience of banking applications, EDI, and consumer loyalty programs," said Chandra Shah, Litronic's vice president of corporate development.

Shah praised Netscape's security initiative as simpler than other approaches for developers who are not security experts--and Netscape returned the favor in a statement.

"Litronic is one of a few companies on the forefront in applying smart card technology to the needs of the enterprise," Eric Greenburg, Netscape's group security product manager, said in the statement.