Netscape Communications will supply DOD with PKI software

Netscape Communications will supply DOD with PKI software

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

The Defense Department has licensed public-key infrastructure software from Netscape Communications Corp. for several electronic commerce pilots.

The agreement for Certificate Management System 4.1 is the final option of a 1997 departmentwide license that lets up to 2 million users at DOD and Defense contractors' sites use Netscape client and server products for Web access, messaging and collaboration.

'PKI is an absolute precursor for e-commerce,' said John Menkart, director of government sales for Netscape.

The PKI option is worth an estimated $13.1 million, according to the Defense Information Systems Agency. The entire Netscape license is valued at $33.8 million.

PKI uses public- and private-key pairs to encrypt and decrypt data and to verify the identity of remote users through digital certificates issued and managed by a trusted authority.

Netscape's Certificate Management System issues and manages X.509 digital certificates and does encryption key recovery.

It supports Federal Information Processing Standards and the Digital Signature Standard, providing midlevel security via a software token. High security requires a hardware token such as a smart card or Fortezza card.

DOD plans to use PKI for nonclassified purposes such as ensuring the authenticity of signatures on contracts, travel vouchers and other financial documents, and to authenticate users of information systems. The e-commerce pilots also will involve PKI use for the Global Command and Control System and Global Combat Support System, DISA officials said.

Version 4.1 succeeds the Netscape Certificate Server, Menkart said. It can distribute certificate authority, maintaining a centralized point of issuance but distributing the sites for registration and verification of the potential 2 million users.

Make it legal

Separate private keys are necessary for digital signatures and for encryption, to guarantee nonrepudiation'a legal link between signers and documents.

PKI allows key recovery, so that encrypted material can be decrypted if the key is lost or a court order requires disclosure.

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