Litronic Inc., a specialist in smart card devices for network security purposes, has announced a series of card readers for various types of computers.
The range of products, called netsignia, combined with specifications from Microsoft Corp. for compatibility with Windows operating systems, could help accelerate the acceptance of smart cards on existing computer equipment.
Litronic gave its card readers numbers from 210 to 410, indicating various levels of complexity. The price tags, between $89 and $135 before volume discounts, suggest that they will be of most interest to corporate security managers, though the Irvine, Calif., company sees "mass deployment" as feasible.
"Our netsignia generation of products is based on the market need for smart card security products that can be used in major deployments quickly, easily, and cost-effectively," said Bill Holmes, vice president of sales and marketing. "Each reader within this product family meets unique market concerns addressing cost, installation, and portability of security applications."
At the low end, the 210 reader/writer is described as "low-cost and user-friendly." Connecting into a keyboard's serial port obviates the need for an external power supply.
The 220 hand-held reader, which also does without the bulky power transformers, has been certified as "designed for Windows NT and Windows 98," and is compatible with Windows 95 and the forthcoming upgrade of NT known as Windows 2000, Litronic said.
The 230 reader/writer is integrated with the Key Tronic Corp. smart card keyboard for secure log-ons. The 410 model works with laptop computers by fitting into the standard PCMCIA card slot.
In another announcement last month, Litronic said it has developed a "smart card migration path" from current Windows platforms to Windows 2000 for users of its NetSign enterprise security system. That should appeal to the increasing level of interest in using smart cards as part of public key cryptography infrastructures. Complex data encryption operations can be off-loaded from computers that are vulnerable to hacking and performed on the cards themselves.
"Users who are anxious to take advantage of the smart card functionality that will be built into Windows 2000 can get started today with NetSign," Mr. Holmes said. "This is a simple, affordable, no-risk path to leading-edge smart card capabilities."
Litronic also announced a strategic relationship with GTE Corp.'s Cybertrust data security division, which will be a reseller of Litronic's ProFile Manager system for digital certificate and key management. This program, too, relies on smart cards to raise levels of assurance.
"ProFile Manager's operability with Cybertrust opens new market opportunities to implement public key infrastructures," Mr. Holmes said.
"We are adding smart card capabilities to Cybertrust's secure extranet certificate services and are already working with their sales team across the country" as well as in partnership with GTE's Cybertrust-Japan affiliate.