Security-7 Software Inc. has announced an enhancement to its SafeGate system, which is designed to protect computers from Java and other "active content" security threats.

The company said its new software version, SafeGate 1.2, enhances the ability to control network security centrally and includes support for the digital certificates that are piquing bankers' and others' interest as a way to verify the authenticity of people involved in on-line transactions.

Security-7, founded in 1996 by Israeli computer scientists and now based in Boston, is one of several companies that have sounded alarms about Java programs, based on a language developed at Sun Microsystems Inc. Java captured the imagination of many system developers since its introduction in 1995 because it enables little programs, known as applets, to be transmitted over the Internet and other networks.

Designed for "write once, run anywhere" compatibility across any computer operating system, Java has won support from the smart card industry and other sectors that see potential in linking computing devices of varying size. But technology experts have been concerned that security problems riding on Java applets can cause havoc to enterprise computer systems.

The same concern applies to Active-X components, Microsoft Corp.'s version of transmissible programming, which many in the computer industry have found more vulnerable than Java applets.

"Serious security attacks from hostile active-content executables continues to be a threat," said Richard Kosinski, Security-7 vice president of sales.

"Until now, many organizations had to restrict their desktops from receiving dangerous Internet executables at the expense of useful active content," he said. "SafeGate 1.2 raises the bar on enterprise security and allows our customers to intelligently take advantage of Java and Active-X technology from the Internet while protecting them from potentially harmful content."

Security-7 stresses the "industrial strength" nature of its technology, enabling it to be installed on a corporate network and implemented as flexibly as a security manager may desire. Levels of security can vary for each external network gateway to define what can be permitted at individual desktops.

SafeGate is designed compatibly with Internet firewalls-Security-7 has a relationship with Checkpoint Software Technologies, a leader in that field- but provides an additional, critical filter.

"Firewalls establish if a connection is allowed to a given site," Mr. Kosinski. "They do not establish if the content would do harm to the site or meets its policies."

Mr. Kosinski said his company is still in a relatively early marketing stage and has found a need to raise awareness of Java and Active-X hazards. He said 10% to 20% of the corporate market recognizes the problem, and in extreme cases will prohibit penetration by turning away active content at the firewall.

"Financial institutions have a high level of paranoia about security, but even there a lot are not aware of the threat," Mr. Kosinski added.

"If you believe in electronic commerce and the evolving model of network computing, there will be a lot of downloading of executable code. The code will have to be validated and the source of the code verified. We have built our system to meet those needs, with the scalability needed by large enterprises."

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