Trusted computing is good for you

LAS VEGAS'Ironically, trusted computing is something of a pariah with a lot of cybersecurity types because of concerns over losing owner control of the IT systems they protect.

Bruce Potter, a senior analyst with Booz Allen Hamilton and founder of the Shmoo Group, made a plea on behalf of trusted computing Wednesday at the Black Hat Briefings security conference.

The current practice of layering security onto finished IT systems has not worked, Potter said, and the problems are getting worse.

'We're getting better at dealing with the problems of 10 or 15 years ago,' he said, but 'we haven't really solved a God-damned thing' since 1972.

Digital rights management has helped give trusted computing a bad name by taking control of content away from end users. But Apple has managed to remove that stigma with its phenomenally successful iPod MP3 player. By February, more than 1 billion iTunes had been downloaded to iPods, with their integrated hardware, software and content format.

'Apple just made trusted computing sexy and cool,' Potter said.

Potter called for the security community to embrace the Trusted Platform Module, a chip specified by the Trusted Computing Group for controlling content on computing devices. He pointed out that the chip's functions must be invoked by the user and can give strong protection by encrypting data on the device according to the user's policies.

A growing number of products are shipping with TPM chips, and more software supports the technology. New Intel chip-based Macintosh computers use the chip, and Microsoft's new Vista operating system supports TPM for key storage in its secure BitLocker.

'This is a huge opportunity, Potter said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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