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Ramping-up e-Security, PKI Technologies

A secure public key infrastructure (PKI)-based e-commerce and m-commerce environment, and a global PKI sales forecast of over US$7 billion by 2004 (according to the International Data Corp), have attracted several Indian software firms into this area of development.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India’s largest software house, recently allocated US$45 million to its Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Hyderabad specifically for the development of security and bio-informatics products. While TCS already markets a PKI network product, the company is now turning its attention to the lucrative embedded PKI sector.

Other companies, like ATC and WTLS, are researching advanced methods, including elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) and its implementation on smartcards. ECC seems well suited to embedded products, like mobile handhelds and smartcards, as it achieves the same level of security with much shorter key lengths. According to Dr M Vidyasagar, ATC’s chief, “the challenge is to develop algorithms small enough to fit on devices with limited storage and processing power, and secure enough to withstand attacks by supercomputers.”

The Center for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune, and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, have jointly developed advanced encryption technologies based on international standards, which are offered on C-DAC’s corporate VPN and crypto packages. This initiative was triggered by the US export controls on strong encryption.

Diverse Solutions

Pace Software, a Pune soft silicon R&D; unit with headquarters in Dublin, offers crypto components based on SoC-type programmable chips. It has applied for five patents in video and cryptography algorithms. Pace has developed advanced hash, symmetric key and asymmetric key algorithms.

Other companies crowding the PKI market include VisualSoft (Hyderabad) with its enterprise solution VisualSoftCrypt, Odyssey Technologies (Chennai) selling T-shell, and Myespace.com (Chennai), with its encryption tool Oyenok. Adeptek Software has sold its eSign signature authentication and verification software to NASDAQ. Axis (Pune) combines biometrics and encryption technologies like PKI to develop innovative e-security solutions.

The average cost of developing a world-class encryption solution in India is reportedly only 40% of that in the western world. Cost advantages are even greater for applications development. Smartcard system integrator iSmart International’s CEO, George White, said that locating in India has saved the company “almost 90% of [its] costs.” iSmart acquired a Bangalore Java development firm and has another center in Mumbai.

Global leaders like Baltimore Technologies, Rainbow Technologies, Entrust Technologies, Certicom, GemPlus, Schlumberger, Checkpoint and RSA have entered into partnerships with local firms. They are looking both at developing applications and at tapping the domestic market, which seems to be taking off – especially in the e-government, banking, cellular and transport sectors.

by Jude Pinto, Mumbai

(December 2001 Issue, Nikkei Electronics Asia)

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