GCN INSIDER: Trends and technologies that affect the way government does IT

Executives from Tumbleweed Communications Corp. stress the company was founded before the dot-com boom and continues to thrive after the bust. No argument here, but a GCN editor who recently met with the Redwood City, Calif., company prefers to romanticize about its dot-com-like name and history of launching from a founder's home.

But the fact is Tumbleweed is aggressively expanding its horizons, including the recent formation of a government solutions team to push its secure Internet messaging products. The company currently has 2 million software seats in the federal government, according to Ann Smith, Tumbleweed's vice president of federal sales.

Tumbleweed's Validation Authority software handles public-key infrastructure and identity validation using the Online Certificate Status Protocol. ('PKI envy is brewing in the commercial sector,' said CTO John Thielens, because the federal government, particularly the Defense Department, has such a robust program.) The company is currently working with General Dynamics to incorporate its OCSP technology at the Defense Information Systems Agency after the integrator tested 11 OCSP products.

Tumbleweed's MailGate sniffs outbound e-mail at the gateway and reroutes sensitive documents to an encrypted channel, while SecureTransport allows for en- crypted file transfers. Smith admitted the SecureTransport product hasn't gained as much traction in government as the company would like (although more than a dozen agency customers seem like a pretty good start). The Patent and Trademark Office now uses SecureTransport to move data in lieu of tapes on trucks.

FOSE meets the Far East

Was anyone else impressed with the smallish Korea pavilion at last month's FOSE trade show? One GCN editor who spent a good chunk of time there counted more than a dozen tech companies showing everything from security solutions (many security solutions) to bright, high-end displays.

Seoul Standard Co. Ltd. had a nice military-grade rugged notebook that meets military specifications. It's always good to have more options in the growing rugged notebooks market. But more interesting were FOMGuard Inc.'s optic sensor fence and Meet Co. Ltd.'s MetalCell batteries.

According to Charles Harvey, CTO of Washington-based International Trade and Technologies Inc., which helps Korean companies crack the U.S. market, the FOMGuard system has been tested and deployed at certain U.S. military bases. It consists of a net of fiber-optic cables thrown over a perimeter fence. The net links back to a central surveillance system and, thanks to the fiber optics, can pinpoint within inches where a security breach may occur.

The MetalCell is a portable battery for powering radios, laptops, etc. It collapses for easy carrying and runs on salt water. When asked where, for instance, a soldier in Iraq might find salt water to power his emergency battery, a Meet executive smiled and said that for short uses, a person could, ahem, urinate on the battery.

Enforcing security policy

In March GCN got a call from Elemental Security Inc., which was about to announce the company's launch and introduce its Elemental Compliance System, a software suite for handling policy management, host configuration and network access control. The San Mateo, Calif., company was co-founded by Dan Farmer, a noted security expert who advised the DOD on protecting networks after 9/11 (look for him in a future GCN Interview).

Perhaps Elemental's most useful feature is what it calls Fuel, a custom, cross-platform policy language that allows agencies to more easily express and deploy security policies across an enterprise. Ram Krishnan, Elemental's vice president of marketing, said by the end of the year the company would introduce an application programming interface to open up the policy language, which would make it even more powerful.

Where can agencies find out more? Safe Harbor Systems of Vienna, Va., announced last month it would offer the Elemental Compliance System to its government customers.

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