Deal secures IRS agents in field

The Internal Revenue Service is arming its field agents with laptops so secure they can access confidential data from the road.

More than 15,000 field agents were recently equipped with virtual private network technology that gives them secure remote access to IRS files.

The $2.9-million deal with SafeNet Inc., a Baltimore-based Internet security firm, is one of the largest individual purchases of VPN technology for secure business communications over the Internet.

Eventually, more than 30,000 IRS employees will be equipped with the solution, said Tony Caputo, SafeNet's chairman and chief executive officer.

"Anyone attempting to access the IRS computers over the phone or Internet access must use VPN technology," Caputo said.

Under the VPN arrangement, field agents receive secure software, enabling them to dial into the IRS computer system, and a smart card to verify their identity. The IRS system grants access to records according to what the agent is authorized to do.

SafeNet also handles security at other government agencies, including the State Department, where it secures e-mail from embassies, and the Defense Department, where it's used for a tactical battlefield application.

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