Netscape to provide federal workers with Fortezza support

Pending final government approval Netscape Communications Corp. plans this week to begin allowing any federal government electronic mail user to download and test its Navigator browser that supports Fortezza cards.

This initial evaluation will give any federal employee whose e-mail address is denoted by .gov or .mil the opportunity until February to download free Netscape Navigator 3.0 to use with Fortezza cards.

The cards which were developed by the National Security Agency will eventually be assigned to all users of the Defense Department's Defense Message System to authenticate user identification and encrypt e-mail data. Netscape's move to add Fortezza support is directed toward tapping the potential government move toward a secure workstation which would include Internet access.

Fortezza-based encryption is to be used by 2 million DOD PC systems. Microsoft Corp. and Lotus Development Corp. the two major contenders for messaging customers have begun to sell DMS copies to defense customers but the system is not fully deployed.

No policy has been determined to secure PC system uses other than e-mail but NSA is working to develop other Fortezza applications that would result in an integrated workstation security package.

Security Products

To advance that effort NSA recently purchased 15 000 Netscape browsers to have secure Internet access features built into the product. AT&T's SecretAgent encryption product also includes a helper application that can be configured to launch to the World Wide Web and encrypt data transmission.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3.0 does not support Fortezza but the company plans to incorporate that support into version 4.0 said Bruce Weber marketing manager for Microsoft's federal district. Weber said neither the release date of Explorer 4.0 nor the extent of user acceptance of a browser that supports Fortezza has been determined. "We don't have any idea what the eventual support for that will be " he said.

Netscape's government penetration has increased by more than eightfold since April 1995 growing from more than 100 000 to between 800 000 to 1 million users said Peter Thorp Netscape's federal manager. For example the Defense Information Systems Agency recently bought 180 000 copies of Navigator 3.0.

"Our goal is to allow people to try it and use it before they buy it " Thorp said. "There are so many variables [with the introduction of Fortezza cards]. We need to acquire better data to provide the best product to customers."

The compatibility of Netscape's browser with Fortezza PC cards and readers depends upon the installation of the browser readers and cards said Bill Bialick technical director of Syprus Inc. one of two contractors providing the cards to DOD. Bialick helped develop the Fortezza card as an NSA employee.

He said last week that he had not yet tested the cards with Navigator. Still if the Fortezza card is installed properly with the full PC card stack and reader adding the browser should be fairly simple he said.

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