WinZip 9.0 Beta Adds AES Support

Data-compression specialist WinZip Computing unleashed a public beta of the
next version of its WinZip utility for
Windows Monday, adding support for AES , the Advanced
Encryption Standard endorsed for governmental and private data encryption.

WinZip said its WinZip 9.0 beta adds the AES features to the new versions
of the WinZip E-Mail Attachment Add-On for Outlook as well as the WinZip
Command Line Support Add-On. The E-Mail Attachment Add-On for Outlook
streamlines the process of compressing files attached to Microsoft Outlook
e-mail messages, reducing transmission time and disk storage. The Command
Line Support Add-On allows users to quickly zip and unzip from the command
line, and to automate repetitive tasks using batch files or scripts.

The new AES capabilities support 128-bit and 256-bit encryption, and the
company noted that its implementation is FIPS-197 certified by the National
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which selected AES as the
federal government’s new encryption standard. Secretary of Commerce Donald
Evans finalized
the federal government’s approval of the standard in December 2001.

AES is a 128-bit block cipher algorithm based on Rijndael, a mathematic
formula developed by Belgian cryptographers Joan Daemen, of Proton World
International, and Vincent Rijmen, of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
Rijndael (pronounced Rhine-doll), named after its creators, was selected by
the U.S. government in October 2000 as a new encryption technique for
protecting computerized information. NIST, an agency of the Commerce
Department’s Technology Administration, selected the formula after a
four-year competition.

AES replaced the venerable Data Encryption Standard (DES), which was
adopted by the Defense Department in 1977. DES is a 56-bit encryption
technique that stood firm for nearly 20 years before scientists were able
to crack it using massive parallel network computer attacks and
special-purpose “DES-cracking” hardware. By 1993, other formulas, such as
Blowfish, came along, sporting 64-bit algorithms. Cryptographers then went
a step further and developed a method of encrypting data three times
over — a variant known as “Triple-DES.”

But Triple-DES was an imperfect solution, putting a considerable drain on
CPU resources because data was encrypted and decrypted three times over.
Because AES works with data in a 128-bit key size (allowing for 340
undecillion — or 340 followed by 36 zeros — possible keys), it allows
programmers to hide critical data while putting less of a strain on CPUs.

Additionally, the company noted that it is publishing full specifications
of its AES support, which will allow authors of other Zip file utilities to
adopt its implementation.

WinZip 9.0 also adds support for 64-bit extensions to the Zip file format,
which the company said eliminates all practical restrictions on Zip file
capacity. WinZip has also added support for the “enhanced deflate”
compression method.

WinZip goes for $29 per copy, with site license pricing available. The
company said all registered users of earlier English-language versions of
the utility will be able to download a free upgrade of WinZip 9.0.

The official release is due later this year.

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