trusted PC

The trusted PC is an industry ideal of a PC with built-in security mechanisms that place minimal reliance on the user or administrator to keep a PC and its peripheral devices secure.

The trusted PC is an industry ideal of a PC with built-in security mechanisms that place minimal reliance on the user or administrator to keep a PC and its peripheral devices secure. Trusted personal computing devices are being developed that maximize the security of individual computers through hardware and operating system-based mechanisms rather than through add-in programs and policies. To that end, security mechanisms are being built into chips, chipsets, and motherboards, among other things, because industry consensus is that hardware-based mechanisms are inherently more trustworthy than those created with software.

The Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA) was formed in October 1999 by Compaq, HP, IBM, Intel and Microsoft. TCPA, whose membership now includes more than 140 companies, states as its goals: "To develop a specification, based on the collaboration of PC industry platform, operating system, application, and technology vendors, that delivers a set of hardware and operating system security capabilities that customers can use to enhance the trust and security in their computing environments."

Once effective mechanisms are built into the actual computer hardware, security will not be as dependent upon the vigilance of individual administrators as it has been in the past. If the trusted PC works the way it should, an inexperienced or lackadaisical administrator won't be able to unwittingly compromise system or network security through inefficient policies. The idea of a "trusted PC" is similar to the trust relationships that can be set up between networked computers to allow the terminals involved varying degrees of access to each other's data, depending on their requirements and level of trust. The new trusted PC uses the word in a different sense, in that its "trust" is based on hard-wired security - somewhat like trusting children to stay out of the cookie jar because it is locked in a safe.

This was first published in October 2006

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