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Summary of TCPA Technology

Trusted Platforms get their name from the fact that they enable either a local user or a remotely communicating user to trust a platform for some particular purpose. A behavioral definition of trust has been adopted: An entity can be trusted if it always behaves in the expected manner for the intended purpose.

The Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA) is an industry alliance formed in October 1999 that focuses on developing and standardizing Trusted Platform technology. The TCPA specification, released in February 2001, is designed to be independent of the type of platform (PC, server, PDA, printer, mobile phone, and so on). A single hardware chip (costing about the same as a smart card) will typically perform the TCPA-defined trusted functions. All other functions will be performed by normal software. The TCPA architecture is designed to provide immediate, intermediate, and long-term benefits to users. Some features will be available immediately, while other features require further software development (expected shortly). The most advanced features require a public key infrastructure and are designed for use by e-services.

A TCPA-enabled system offers a low-cost standardized means of embedding security functionality in a platform. As a result, improved levels of security can become ubiquitous. The capabilities provided by a TCPA-compliant platform benefit both consumers and business and have been defined to be independent of a specific market focus. In particular, a Trusted Platform allows users to have confidence that their computing platform will behave in the way they expect, and also to trust remote systems that are not under their control.

This technology is promoted by major companies such as HP, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft. Trusted Platforms are likely to appear on the market from 2002 onward. These computers can be used as a foundation for many different types of trusted e-service. For example, TCPA-compliant PCs in public places could enable people to authenticate themselves to the network, attest to the trust level of the PC, and then conduct their business in security before leaving. Trusted Platforms can potentially enhance application areas as diverse as manageability, storage, virtual private networks (VPN), and intrusion detection. Therefore, this specification is starting to excite a great deal of interest as security experts and users appreciate its potential and the necessity of this technology for the expansion of e-commerce.

The TCPA home page is a source of useful information.

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