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PKZip adds security, ports to new platforms

Brown Deer, Wisc.-based PKWare Inc. forged a reputation as a programmer's friend back in the 1980s when it introduced compression software that made big file handling available to everyone. The makers of the PKZip file compression utility continue to enhance their flagship package, recently releasing versions that ensure more secure file transmission and handle more platforms, including the august MVS and OS/400 machines.

PKWare is adding 256-bit AES encryption to MVS, Windows and OS/400 versions of its software. Among the new PKWare releases is PKZip for Unix. The addition of encryption, enabled through an alliance with RSA Security, is designed, among other things, to help users comply with stricter federal rules regarding the protection of individual privacy, notably the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Under a strategic alliance announced in November of last year, PKWare is licensing RSA's BSAFE encryption for use across all platforms, while RSA is licensing PKZip for its products.

The file compression stage is a good point at which to secure files, said Stephen Crawford, chief marketing officer, PKWare. As well, for many, it is important to be able to move zipped files from one platform to another, he indicated.

''If you truly want security to be deployed, it won't be left to the end user [when they send or receive messages],'' said Crawford. He noted that ZIP compresses data before it is encrypted, reducing processing and bandwidth overhead.

PKZip was created by Phil Katz, founder of PKWare, who is widely reputed to have written the code for the compression program while sitting at his mother's kitchen table in 1986. Katz, who died in 2000 at the age of 37, also took the at-the-time unusual step of offering PKZip as shareware. This helped it spread as a compression standard, and acted as something of a precursor to the broader use of open-source software in more recent years.

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About the Author

Scott Adams is a senior software engineer for TeamQuest.

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