Schlumberger announces a breakthrough in on-line security – the first smart card that simply plugs into a personal computer. Called Cryptoflex e-gate, it removes the major barrier to the use of smart cards with personal computers by providing a direct connection between the card and the computer via the USB port. Cryptoflex e-gate provides the low-cost, simple to deploy security organisations need to protect sensitive information, control network access and facilitate Internet-based e-commerce.
Smart cards are almost universally accepted as the ideal means of providing the security required for making payments, placing orders and exchanging confidential information over networks and the Internet. Until now, however, the cost and logistics of integrating smart cards into PCs have held back adoption of this technology on the scale required for e-commerce to realise its predicted potential.
Cryptoflex e-gate simply plugs into the USB (universal serial bus) port supplied as standard on today’s personal computers, to give business users and consumers complete on-line security. It is estimated that over half the personal computers in the world will be USB-capable by the end of 2001: the development of Cryptoflex e-gate means that PC manufacturers can now integrate smart card security to deliver cost-effective ‘e-commerce ready’ personal computer systems.
“Commercial and financial organisations worldwide are planning and implementing innovative Internet services – but to take real advantage of the on-line future, consumers and business users must have total confidence in Internet security,” said J©r´me Sion, Schlumberger Product Manager. “With Cryptoflex e-gate, we’ve developed a simpler and more cost-effective route for high-level security.”
“By exploiting the speed and ease of integration of USB, Schlumberger is accelerating the acceptance of smart cards as the secure e-commerce solution of choice,” said Philippe Goetschel, Microsoft Director Smart Cards. “Combined with the flexibility and strength of Microsoft’s Windows for Smart Card OS, the Cryptoflex e-gate now makes the ‘e-commerce ready’ personal computer system a practical reality.”
At the heart of Cryptoflex e-gate is a specially-designed chip which incorporates the interface electronics normally resident in a traditional smart card reader. This enables the card to connect directly with the USB, without the need for a card reader or a separate power supply. Instead, it uses a simple connector, which dramatically reduces costs – rewriting the business case for smart cards as the network security technology of choice.
Schlumberger is offering Cryptoflex e-gate in two formats. The standard ISO version is a versatile smart card that enhances user convenience giving consumers a single key to a host of smart services. When used with a personal computer to provide secure access to Internet services, for example, the user simply puts this card into the connector, and the system recognises it as a peripheral in the same way as it recognises a mouse or other USB device. Plus the same card can also be used in traditional smart card terminals.
Cryptoflex e-gate is also available as a small format card within a token that plugs directly into the USB port. Low cost and simple to deploy, it is ideal for organisations seeking a secure and controllable computing infrastructure for large numbers of personal computer users.
Each version takes the convenience and ease of use associated with smart cards to new levels. Both are hot-pluggable, so users can connect Cryptoflex e-gate when required, while the computer is running, without the need to re-boot; both are self-powered, eliminating the need for additional cabling or power connections; and both use the high speed USB communications protocol.
The essence of smart card-based security for computers and networks is the fact that the private keys that are used to generate digital signatures that authenticate transactions, like orders and payments, are stored securely on the card and not exposed to hackers on a computer’s hard drive. The card’s owner retains full control over the card and its contents.
As the latest member of the groundbreaking Cryptoflex family, Cryptoflex e-gate offers exceptionally high levels of security (DES, triple DES and RSA cryptographic capabilities) even by smart card standards, including a unique on-card key generation facility and an RSA 1024 bit public key.
Cryptoflex e-gate also takes full advantage of the faster communication speed offered by USB. This is particularly valuable for the growing number of smart card applications where the card needs to hold extensive amounts of data, giving card operators across banking, health and loyalty sectors the opportunity to deliver secure one-to-one services over the Internet.
The ‘e-gate’ feature has the potential to be applied to other card applications, giving card operators opportunities to bring to market more quickly new services over the Internet. Schlumberger has proposed to include USB protocol for the USIM cards to be used in third generation wireless telephony systems which are currently being standardised and set to progressively replace current GSM systems from 2001. With the continuing trend for multi-application functionality on GSM cards and the increasing capacity needed to store information such as phone books, USB offers the communications speed to meet the high expectations of mobile phone users.
The Cryptoflex e-gate card will be available in mid-2000.
Cryptoflex and Cryptoflex e-gate are trade marks of Schlumberger.
Schlumberger is the leading provider of smart card-based solutions worldwide. Drawing on 20 years’ experience in pioneering smart card innovations, Schlumberger is continuing to evolve the next generation of smart cards, parking terminals, ticketing machines, payphones, banking terminals, servers, software, applications and systems integration that will play a key role in the 21st century’s digital age. Additional information is available at http://www.slb.com/smartcards.
Schlumberger Test & Transactions provides smart card-based solutions; semiconductor equipment and services; and corporate IP and network solutions to customers throughout the world. It is a business unit of Schlumberger Limited, an $11.8 billion global technology services company.
Schlumberger Test & Transactions, 50 avenue Jean Jaures, F-92542 Montrouge, France Web: www.slb.com/smartcards/Details