Data integrity initiative launched

"File Signature Database information"

Tripwire Inc. launched an effort last week for an open standard to validate the integrity of software running on several platforms.

The program, known as the file signature database, will help systems administrators validate legitimate software, uncover suspicious data and keep better track of file changes that could bring down systems.

Information technology shops are under pressure to deliver services in a secure manner, said Wyatt Starnes, president and chief executive officer of Tripwire, which makes integrity management software. Systems administrators "need to get [better] operational control over [IT] resources," Starnes said.

Joining Tripwire in the program are major operating systems vendors including Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.; software installation vendor InstallShield Software Corp.; and security software provider RSA Security Inc.

Starnes said the National Institute of Standards and Technology has been actively promoting such standards through its National Software Reference Library and focusing on increasing the government's computer forensic capabilities. Representatives of the consortium and the institute are discussing combining their efforts, he said. The vendors plan to make the database available to government and law enforcement agencies to aid in cybercrime investigations.

Federal agencies with systems connected to the Internet could benefit from the initiative, said John Pescatore, Gartner Inc.'s vice president for Internet security research. "The ability to detect [software] that is out of configuration is a big thing."

A repository of file information and metadata derived from software vendors forms the heart of the proposed database and enables users to determine the authenticity of files that make up the software. Information will include file names and digital hash values that provide a unique file signature archive, which crosses operating systems and applications.

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