In another attempt to match Netscape
feature for feature, Microsoft
today announced a suite of
security technologies to boost the safety of Net communications, including
digital certificates and the addition of an electronic wallet to Internet
The Microsoft Internet Security Framework combines a number of new and
previously announced technologies that echo security offerings
announced but not yet delivered by Netscape in recent months. But Microsoft is
planning to play its trump card--its control of Windows--to
distinguish its products from its rival.
technologies coexist nicely with existing investments. It's not that I'm
going on the Internet and I'm putting on a new hat and coat. It should be
seamless [between the Internet and corporate applications]," said Prady
Misra, product unit manager for Internet
security at Microsoft.
In the fourth quarter, the company will release a beta version of the
Microsoft Certificate Server, a Windows NT server for issuing, managing, and
revoking digital certificates, electronic passports that allow servers to
prove a user's identity over the Internet through public key cryptography.
While the server will let companies issue and manage their own certificates, Microsoft said the next beta version of Internet Explorer 3.0, due out at the end of this month, will also support client authentication through digital
certificates issued by public certifying authorities such as Verisign, according to Misra.
Digital certificates are being touted as a critical technology for
electronic commerce and corporate applications that require client
authentication to prove a user's identity, in addition to encryption.
Digital certificates can also facilitate single log-on capabilities to Web
sites that require passwords, allowing them to automatically sign on to Web
sites without having to remember passwords.
Netscape last April announced its Certificate Server for issuing
certificates and already supports client-authentication in the beta version
of Navigator 3.0, due out in final form later this summer. Microsoft will
try to outdo Netscape, however, by also offering single log-on capabilities
to not just Web sites but also a range of network resources, including
NetWare, Windows NT, and Macintosh servers.
Microsoft has also tried to one up Netscape by announcing Microsoft
Wallet, a program that allows users to store and organize passwords, digital
certificates, and credit card numbers for use over the Internet. The wallet
will be integrated into a version of Internet Explorer by the
third quarter. Netscape last month announced it will integrate wallet
Navigator by the fourth quarter.
But Microsoft's advantage is that Microsoft Wallet will not be limited to
Internet Explorer. It will also work with other browsers and even other
desktop applications so that they can use passwords and other data stored in
the wallet, via Personal Effects Exchange, a standard proposed by Microsoft
for transferring personal security data between applications.
Microsoft today also announced that it would beef up its Windows CryptoAPI
(application programming interface), a feature of the ActiveX software
development kit that allows programmers to build cryptography into their
applications. CryptoAPI 2.0 will go into beta testing in the third quarter and will support client authentication.
Microsoft said it will support offer its wallet, CryptoAPI, code-signing,
client authentication, and SET (Secure Electronic Transactions) technologies
for Unix and Macintosh, as well as
Windows, a factor that could help it compete against Netscape, which already
sells its products on all three platforms.
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