Dell, Wave Hook Up on Security

The PC manufacturer will bundle security software from Wave Systems on future business PCs equipped with the Trusted Platform Module, a secure computing chip.

Dell Inc. will bundle security software from Wave Systems Corp. on future business PCs equipped with the Trusted Platform Module, a secure computing chip, according to information Wave provided to federal regulators.

Wave signed a deal with Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, on Nov. 14 to ship the Wave Embassy Trust Suite software on new business PCs, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week by Wave, of Lee, Mass. The software allows companies to integrate user authentication, data encryption and file-based protection on systems that have the TPM chip.

Dell does not comment on news about future products, said Anne Camden, a Dell spokesperson.

The TPM is a silicon-based microcontroller developed by the Trusted Computing Group. TPMs are manufactured by a number of vendors and installed on PC motherboards; they securely store data such as encryption keys, passwords and digital certificates.

TPMs are considered more resistant to external attacks than software-based encryption products, but they have generated a bit of controversy in recent years. The most publicized example was Microsoft Corp.s stated plan to use a TPM in its hardware/software security architecture originally known as Palladium. Later renamed NGSCB (Next Generation Secure Computing Base), the architecture ran afoul of privacy and security experts, who worried that Microsoft would have access to users encryption keys and other sensitive data.

Microsoft plans to deliver a modified version of the NGSCB security features in Windows Vista, the next Windows release. The new features include Secure Startup, which uses the TPM to ensure the integrity of the Windows startup (or boot) procedure and encrypt hard drive data, including files and Windows configuration information.

Dell already offers a version of Waves Embassy Trust Suite security software to customers who buy its OptiPlex desktops and Precision or Latitude laptops. The software allows customers to manage the TPM chip and use the TPM to provide multifactor authentication for Windows, password management, and file and folder encryption.

Bundling software such as the Embassy Trust Suite ensures compatibility with the platform. Dell bases its decisions about which software to bundle with its hardware on customer feedback, Camden said.

Under the new agreement with Dell, Wave will receive a royalty for each unit that ships with the Embassy technology, according to the SEC filing.

Dell has partnered with Wave since the company began shipping the TPM chip as a standard component of Dell systems in March. Customers use the Wave software to manage and extend the functionality of their TPM chips, Camden said.

Wave also has agreements with other companies. Chip maker Intel Corp. bundles the Embassy Trust Suite with its motherboards, and Lenovo Group Ltd. ships Waves technology with its computers.

Papa Ginos Holdings Corp., of Dedham, Mass., uses Waves Embassy Trust Suite on Dell OptiPlex desktop and Latitude notebooks to encrypt sensitive corporate data on hard drives and backup tapes, said Chris Cahalin, network manager at the company.

Stories about data exposed by lost or stolen desktop computers have raised the profile and increased the importance of software that can protect customers from data theft, Camden said.

"Wave and Dell with the TPM actually offer a good solution to help counteract that kind of situation," she said.

TPM-equipped computers have been available for some time, but there are still a few software applications that use the chip for security. However, that is beginning to change.

Earlier this month, VeriSign Inc. and Infineon Technologies AG announced they will certify Infineons TPM Certification Authority with VeriSigns Trusted Computing Root Certification Authority and embed a VeriSign certificate authority on the Infineon TPM.

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  • What is it? TPM stands for Trusted Platform Module, a specification for a silicon-based microcontroller that stores keys, passwords, digital certificates and other sensitive data
  • Who developed it? The Trusted Computing Group, with input from Intel, Hewlett-Packard Co., Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Microsoft, IBM and other companies
  • What software uses TPM? Infineon, Utimaco Safeware AG, IBM, NTRU Cryptosystems Inc. and others make security software that can use the TPM, and Microsoft is building features into the next version of Windows that will use the TPM

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