25 Oct Encrypted data without the fuss
Milwaukee — PKWare’s new server-based file compression software has come out of beta testing for its public release, touting the ability to create encrypted self-extracting files in the company’s Zip format and run on several platforms.
Recipients of the files can now open them without needing to install PKWare software themselves. Instead, a password or digital key will unlock the data, which is contained in an executable file. That’s the biggest difference in the new version for Johnson Financial Group, one of the beta testers.
“We don’t have to worry about supporting our customers because we told them to install something,” said Kevin Bong, the group’s associate vice president of networks and security.
The software has also been extended to multiple platforms, said Steve Crawford, PKWare’s chief marketing officer. The new version will be launched for Linux, Unix and Windows, expanding on its Windows-only roots.
Open standards and platforms are nothing new to the Wisconsin company, though. When Phil Katz developed the Zip encryption format in 1989, he published it on Internet bulliten boards and maintained it as an open standard, releasing the PKZip softare itself as shareware. This openness may have directly led to the file format’s wide adoption, which PKWare sees as a base to build on.
“Zip is so widely deployed across all these different end-users’ systems that we think it’s an ideal platform to start distributing security features,” Crawford said.
That’s what the company has started doing with its SecureZip line of enterprise products. The company as a whole is now focused mostly on the enterprise and on server-based products, though it has a few home-use Zip products available.
PKWare’s business model is to sell packaged server software, said Jim Peterson, the company’s chief technology officer. It does not offer hosted services or formal consulting, at least not now. As it moves further beyond pure storage into securty, Peterson said, the company may look at becoming a consulting firm.
Home users may be more familiar with competitor WinZip, which took advantage of the Zip format’s open nature to build its own product and has taken much of the desktop market. Nevertheless, Crawford called the widespread Zip format “viral marketing” for PKWare.
SecureZip uses RSA’s BSafe algorithms to encrypt data, which is accessible using either a password or a digital certificate or signature. While Crawford said that lends the company credibility in IT circles, he said it’s not always hard to persuade people to use encryption when it’s available in a product they already use commonly.
Technology already exists, of course, to transmit encrypted data over a network. Peterson cited as an advantage of file-based securty, though, that it is not dependent on the connection.
“We’re all about protecting the data itself,” Peterson said. “SecureZip is not something that would … protect the perimeter of the information. We’re all about ensuring that the data, whether it’s sitting in storage or being transmitted across the Internet … that the integrity of that information remains solid.”
Jason Stitt is WTN’s associate editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.