Tripwire launches data initiative

"File Signature Database information"

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

The program, known as the File Signature Database (FSDB), will try to help systems administrators validate legitimate software, uncover suspicious data and keep better track of file changes that could bring down systems.

Technology departments 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 [information technology] resources," Starnes said.

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

Starnes said that the National Institute of Standards and Technology has been actively promoting these types of standards through its National Software Reference Library, and focusing on increasing computer forensic capabilities. The consortium is in discussions with institute about the FSDB efforts, he said. The vendors plan to make the database available to government and law enforcement agencies to aid in forensics and cybercrime investigations.

A repository of file information and metadata derived from original software vendors forms the heart of the proposed file database, and gives users the ability 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 multiple operating systems and application programs, Starnes said.

The database, developed by Tripwire, stores large volumes of file information in a standard format that will be defined and ratified by the initiative's participants.

Cross-platform capability is a key factor behind Sun's participation in the standards push, said Sin-Yaw Wang, senior director of engineering at Sun, which has offered the Solaris Fingerprint Database for five years. Customers can check, via the Web, their operating systems against the Solaris database to determine if their systems have been compromised. However, Wang said, most customers use more than one operating system and need access information on multiple vendors' software.

Tripwire's database currently has more than 11 million file signatures verified by multiple vendors and suppliers. Charter members and other participants will populate the database with new file information as new software is manufactured and released.

The consortium is developing an open standard Web service that will be available in the first half of 2004. An appliance will be made available to customers for self-populating and hosting during 2004.

Having the support of some major vendors gives the initiative weight within the tech community, said Dave Bartlett, director of autonomic computing at IBM. The fact that the database already contains 11 million file signatures is a good indication that this approach is on the right track, he said.

Although Microsoft Corp. and leading Linux vendors such as Red Hat Inc. have not officially signed on to the initiative, Starnes read statements during a press briefing in which officials from the two vendors voiced support for the effort.


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