Gemplus Offers Card to Bolster Network Security

Article excerpt

Gemplus Group has introduced a security system that could encourage the use of smart cards with personal computers and other remote access devices.

Gemsafe, which the French smart card manufacturer unveiled Monday, includes hardware and software for verifying a cardholder's identity and thereby enhancing security on the Internet, corporate intranets, and electronic mail systems.

Gemplus officials say Gemsafe can address public concerns about on-line security until smart card readers are standard computer attachments.

A customer's digital certificate, stored on the card, could improve on password-only home banking or on-line trading services. Beyond that, it becomes portable. The card can authenticate the customer from any input device.

"Today's Internet browsers and e-mail programs have security measures installed, but they are software-based and require only a password for access," said Michel Roux, Gemplus vice president and general manager of Internet and information technologies.

"Now users can be sure it is safe by simply inserting their smart card into their reader, typing in their personal identification number, and allowing the chip on the card to carry out user authentication."

Internet fraud has become increasingly costly, with losses estimated at $10 billion annually, according to a March 1998 Computer Security Institute-Federal Bureau of Investigation computer crimes survey.

Citing consumer surveys, John Landwehr, director of product marketing for Gemplus Americas in Redwood City, Calif., said 60% to 80% of consumers are concerned about Internet transaction safety and so are deterred from trying the medium.

Mr. Landwehr said Gemsafe's selling points, aside from fraud protection and portability, include compatibility with a broad range of standards, such as the X.509 digital certificate, and "plug and play" installation with any PC.

The product works with browser technology from both Netscape Communications Corp. and Microsoft Corp. Gemplus, one of several vendors in the PC/SC Work group, which supports smart card interfaces with personal computers, was also among those signing on this year to a Microsoft program to certify smart cards for use with the Windows and Windows NT operating systems.

Industry observers viewed Gemsafe as positive for transaction security.

"I am impressed, and I think it addresses a couple of tough issues," said Jerome Svigals, a consultant and smart card advocate based in Redwood City, Calif. …