nCipher Teams With Microsoft

nCipher hardware security modules are certified by Microsoft for use with RMS.

As part of Microsoft Corp.s effort to re-launch its Rights Management Services technology, hardware security specialist nCipher plc. this week will announce that its HSMs have been certified by Microsoft for use with RMS, the only modules holding that distinction.

The announcement is a big first step for Microsoft along the road to broader adoption of RMS. The technology, released last year, is designed to aid enterprises in protecting intellectual property and in governing which users have access to which documents. The system relies heavily on cryptography to protect documents, which is where nCipher comes in.

The company last year introduced a security module, known as NetHSM, that can be shared among a group of servers. The concept is somewhat counterintuitive, considering that hardware security modules were developed to provide dedicated hardware-level security for one machine. However, in environments where a managed service provider is managing an enterprises public-key infrastructure, a shareable HSM can be more financially and computationally efficient.

nCiphers NetHSM is designed for this type of environment. The module has unlimited storage of cryptographic keys and can perform 1,600 transactions per second using a 1,024-bit key. One of nCiphers other HSMs, nShield, also is certified for use with the RMS solution.

"This has got to be a major push for Microsoft. RMS is the whole application behind The Trusted Computing Group and [Next-Generation Secure Computing Base]," said Richard Moulds, vice president at nCipher, based in Woburn, Mass. "RMS is just getting going, but I dont think its something Microsoft will be dropping any time soon."

nCipher will announce the partnership with Microsoft at the RSA Conference in San Francisco this week. The company also will announce that GigaMedia Access Corp. is using the NetHSM modules in its GigaTrust managed content protection service for RMS.

Last week, nCipher also announced that it has joined The Trusted Computing Group, an organization backed by Microsoft and set up to advance the use of trusted computing platforms.