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Scotland Yard smiles on smartcards for secure access

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The Metropolitan Police have chosen digital certificate technology from Baltimore Technologies to bolster the security of remote access to sensitive police information.

Baltimore's Unicert Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) system will be used to ensure only trusted users can look up information on police databases, and that a record of transactions is kept. It will be used in addition to the London force's existing security systems.

The technology, which involves issuing police workers with digital certificates on smart cards, will initially be used to authenticate access to an unnamed application for 3,000 users. Remote workers can gain access to this application over a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) and the Met will use middleware from Kyberpass, called eBusiness TrustPlatform, to control access over the encrypted links it will use.

It's hoped over time that future applications using digital certificates, such as secure email and other database applications, will be rolled out to the entire 50,000 strong police force.

Michael Baker, government account manager at Baltimore Technologies, said the Met had previously used network-level security mechanisms to access databases. The new system will provide complete end-to-end security.

Baltimore's Technology meets the UK government's security requirements (it has ITSEC E3 level certification), and this was one of the main reasons The Met selected Unicert in preference to competing PKI technologies.

News of the deal, worth an unspecified amount, is a boost for Baltimore, which earlier this month issued a profit warning that its customers were postponing decisions to buy its software.

PKI technology is considered important for the future of ebusiness but implementation often involves changing the business process within organisation, and this coupled with the cost of the software can make rolling out the technology successfully an expensive proposition. ®

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