So, are you quite sure that you can trust the computer that sits quietly on your desktop?
After all, it is just possible that, when connected to the Internet, your PC could be taken over from afar by hackers. These hackers could then use your computer without your knowledge in distributed denial of service attacks on e-businesses, whose servers are overwhelmed with calls from thousands of computers.
Potentially, hackers could even see your personal banking information by 'reading' input from your keyboard as you type or by accessing your hard drive.
alliance addressing cyber-security
As individuals and businesses become increasingly dependent on the Internet, cyber-security an ever more critical issue for the IT industry and its customers.
The Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA) -- the subject of a new book by a team of HP Labs researchers -- is at work on this crucial problem. Co-founded by HP, TCPA is a cross-industry organization developing standards for safer PCs that would maintain users' privacy while preventing identity deception and resisting a hacker's malign activity.
TCPA's founder members -- HP (both "old" HP and Compaq), IBM, Microsoft and Intel -- have since been joined by more than 150 other IT companies.
new book explains trusted computing platforms
Researchers from HP Laboratories have been closely involved with TCPA and its specification for a low-cost trusted computer and have gained unrivaled experience of the issues, problems and opportunities that the technology offers.
The researchers -- Boris Balacheff, Liqun Chen, David Plaquin, Graeme Proudler and Siani Pearson -- share their expertise a new book that explains what trusted computing platforms are, how they work, what applications they enable and how they can be used to protect data, software and user privacy.
The book, Trusted Computing Platforms, also puts TCPA's work in context, outlining its goals, techniques and discussing the powerful implications of this technology for the future.
The book is divided into four sections, starting with an easy-to-understand outline of this field of computer security and continuing with more technical explanations of the technology and of the TCPA specification.
significant step toward assuring security
It includes scenarios for managers in security-focused businesses and explanations of how trusted computers can protect corporate data.
A trusted platform uses a low-cost hardware attachment and associated software that together implement the TCPA specification. This can assure a user that the computer's system is behaving in an expected manner, that it is the device it claims to be and that it can protect data stored within it. In other words, that the computer has not been subverted by a "hacker script."
The first trusted computers are a significant step on the road to assuring computer users' privacy and security, with valuable features that ordinary computers do not have.
ubiquitous protection mechanisms
Further steps will come with the development of an operating system that uses the properties of a trusted platform, plus a supporting infrastructure. And the TCPA specification could also be used in handheld computing devices such as HP's Jornada and iPAQ.
The authors point out that theirs is the first book of its kind to set out the need for and the advantages of trusted computing platforms.
"We believe that this will increase confidence in the Internet, both for individuals and for businesses," says co-author Proudler, a researcher in the Trusted Systems group. "For the first time, ordinary individuals and businesses will be able to use ubiquitous protection mechanisms to ensure that their privacy and data are secure and that impostors cannot hide on-line."
Balacheff, also a member of the the Trusted Systems group, said he believes the book will be useful to anyone interested in finding out more about -- and deploying --strong platform security.
Pearson, who also edited the book, and Proudler have written articles based on the book for the informIT technical Web site. These articles are set to be posted this month.
by Julian Richards
The contents, preface and chapter one of Trusted Computing Platforms are available for viewing here.
* Trusted Computing Platforms: TCPA Technology in Context (by Boris Balacheff, Liqun Chen, David Plaquin, Dr Siani Pearson [editor], Graeme Proudler) is available from the publisher, Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-009220-7, $49.99, http://www.phptr.com or from Hewlett-Packard Professional Books, http://www.hp.com/hpbooks.