Microsoft Fortifies Smart Card Software

Microsoft  today took its Certificate Lifecycle Manager to beta 2, improving the software’s ability to manage Windows-based smart cards and digital certificates.

Ben Fathi, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s security technology unit, unveiled the second beta at RSA’s Conference Europe 2006 in Nice, France, today.

Fathi also announced the general availability of Windows Defender free anti-spyware software and the Sender ID Framework specification for e-mail authentication under Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise (OSP).

Designed for large companies, CLM beta 2 supports the Windows Smart Card Framework, allowing smart-card makers to write a mini driver to allow smart cards to be managed via CLM, JG Chirapurath, director in the identity and access product management group at Microsoft.

With that, smart-card leader Gemalto said it will support CLM; users who have a Gemalto .NET smart card will be able to manage their infrastructure via CLM.

Chirapurath told in a recent interview Microsoft is offering an external API , which will allow CLM to integrate and work with other vendors’ identity management systems.

“Any ID management vendor our there who chooses to integrate with CLM can now do so because we’ve made this API available,” Chirapurath said.

Finally, CLM beta 2 supports German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Hebrew, Dutch and Portuguese.

Smart cards , devices the size of a credit card that contain electronic memory to enable secure digital transactions, play big in Europe.

Chirapurath said Microsoft hopes the growth will extend to the U.S., noting that Gartner expects the smart-card market will earn 1 billion by 2010.

He said compliance and record-retention policies are opening the door for smart-card adoption.

“They have to have better safe cards around access,” Chirapurath said. “You have to have strong means of protecting both identity and access. This is where smart cards play a fairly strong role.”

CLM, which Microsoft acquired in its purchase of Alacris last year, is one way Microsoft hopes to play in the multi-billion-dollar market for identity management software.

Microsoft is looking for as large a slice of th pie it can muster versus Oracle , HP , IBM , BMC Software , Sun Microsystems and smaller security specialists, such as ActivIdentity Corp.

Microsoft has other, newer security concerns to worry about. Traditionally, Microsoft has been dinged for writing insecure code.

But now it’s getting knocked by security software vendors such as McAfee, which is concerned about getting access to the 64-bit version of Microsoft’s forthcoming Vista operating system.

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