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Security spec gets an upgrade, broader backing

SAN MATEO, Calif. " The Trusted Computing Group passed a milestone in its efforts to improve computer security on Nov. 5, announcing a key update of its specification. The update comes as the TCG adds Sun Microsystems Inc. to its membership and forms a new working group to bring its technology to PDAs.

At the RSA Conference in Amsterdam, the TCG announced it has completed version 1.2 of its trusted platform module (TPM) spec. TPMs are relatively simple chips " currently made by Atmel, Infineon and National " with microcontrollers and solid state storage that can perform hashing algorithms and store encrypted keys for a PC or other systems.

The TPM 1.2 spec includes a handful of new features to enable the chips to generate multiple keys for various applications and services in a manner that allows the system user to remain anonymous. The updated chips should be available in the second half of 2004.

IBM expects it will have shipped as many as 8 million systems, mainly Thinkpad notebooks, using 1.1 version TPMs by the end of this year. To date, Hewlett-Packard has announced a single model desktop with the 1.1 TPM. Both companies said they see value in moving to the new chips.

The chips form a hardware cornerstone for Microsoft Corp.'s Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) that will be built into the next-generation of Windows dubbed Longhorn and expected in 2005. Longhorn will add to the TPM hardware a capability to have a secure execution mode and secure I/O on a desktop PC as well as secure processes on an application by application level.

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