Intel, Microsoft Step Up Network Security

With more and more sensitive data being exchanged over networks, Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. said today they are building new features into their products aimed at making it easier for companies to create networks with built-in security features.

Intel has developed a new security chipset that includes a processor designed to speed up the encryption of data as it travels over a network, a company executive said. Meanwhile, Microsoft said it has tightly integrated support for IPSec (Internet Protocol Security), an emerging security standard, into its upcoming Windows 2000 operating system.

The two companies have profited more than most from the Internet explosion and the related surge in demand for computers. The pair therefore have a vested interest in ensuring that businesses and consumers have confidence in the emerging network economy. Intel has talked often about its goal of creating a global network of “one billion connected computers.”

Intel’s chipset will be incorporated into company products including adaptors and LAN (local area network) motherboards that will be available later this year, Mark Christensen, vice president of Intel’s network communications group, said in a keynote speech at Network+Interop (N+I).

Protecting large volumes of data with strong encryption technology drains processing power, and the chipset will help offload some of that work from a PC’s or server’s CPU, Christensen said.

The chipset, which combines Intel’s 82559C Fast Ethernet controller and 82594 network encryption co-processor, will be used in Intel products that support IPSec encrypted communications, and enable both 56-bit and 128-bit DES (Data Encryption Standard) encryption, Intel said.

Intel’s chipset is designed to safeguard data behind a firewall, where 45 per cent of all security crimes are committed, Christensen said, citing a 1999 joint Computer Security Institute/Federal Bureau of Investigation report.

Microsoft, meanwhile, said it has incorporated “native support” for IPSec in Windows 2000. By tying the IPSec capabilities to Windows 2000’s Active Directory feature, companies will be able to set centrally defined security policies more easily, said Ron Cully, lead product manager for Windows networking.

IPSec is “not an add-on; it’s a fundamental part of how the operating system works and how security is applied,” said Cully, who joined Christensen for a brief press conference after his speech.

Microsoft’s existing software products have been subjected to a string of publicized hacker attacks in recent months, and the company needs to show users that Windows 2000, which it is due to ship by the end of the year, will offer protection for their data, observers noted.

Compaq Computer Corp. and IBM Corp. also pledged today to incorporate IPSec into their PCs later this year, while security software firm Entrust Technologies Inc. said it is working with Intel to increase interoperability between its PKI products and Intel’s Fast Ethernet connectivity products.