08 MAY 2002
HOB Software Ltd. - probably the first foreign software company in Malta - was set up in 1990.
Today HOB Software employs 15 software development engineers. The company, which is 100% German owned, initially developed emulation software for the export market. These emulations allow different systems running on different platforms to communicate. Today HOB Software develops 3270, 5250, X11, NFS, and ASCII terminal emulations together with related development tools like the well-known facelifters.
Presently HOB Software is focusing on Internet issues with particular emphasis on security. Research and development has been ongoing for solutions like VPN, Firewall, Bandwidth Management and NAT.
Businesses can benefit greatly from the Internet. Many have invested in Internet connections to obtain a 24/7 presence. Internet assets are at a constant threat from hackers who are trying to get access to sensitive data. Firewalls help in preventing unauthorised access. But what about protecting data whilst in transit, whether sending or receiving? How does one know that the data has not been spied upon, tampered with, or even blocked?
The solution is VPN. VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows two or more private networks to be connected over a publicly accessed network such as the Internet. Before VPN, sending data securely between parties required the set-up of private dedicated lines. This is not the case with VPN thus making it a truly cost-effective option.
VPN is an especially effective means of exchanging critical information for employees working remotely in branch offices, at home, or on the road. It can securely deliver information between vendors, suppliers, and business partners, who may have a huge physical distance between them.
Of the various implementations of VPN (many of which are incompatible), IPSec comes out as a leader. IPSec is an open protocol from IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) and thus ensures compatibility and interoperability. One of the advantages of IPSec over other VPN implementations is that it is transparent. Applications existing and future do not need to be configured differently.
IPSec is made up of different protocols together ensuring:
Confidentiality This is ensured by encrypting the information. In this way only the parties who posses the security keys would be able to actually decipher the information.
Non-repudiation This is a method by which one has undeniable proof of who sent that particular information.
Authentication and Integrity - Confidentiality is necessary to keep a secret, but without authentication you have no way of knowing that the person with whom you share the secret is whom she claims to be. And with no confidence in the integrity of a received message, you do not know if it was the same message actually sent.
Authorisation Granting or denying access by identifying the user as being who he is supposed to be.
Due to the nature of VPN, its deployment can be quite cumbersome. Hence, an easy and intuitive user-interface is a must. Most modern user-interfaces allow remote VPN administration. Some are even Java based, thus allowing configuration of VPN from any Java-enabled platform.
HOB Software set out to develop a robust and secure product with emphasis on a complexity-hiding user interface. This product encapsulates the major well-known cryptographic algorithms and a java user-interface which is both pleasant to work with and intuitive for the VPN administrator. The added feature of remote management and configuration greatly simplifies the task for the administrator when handling numerous, remotely situated VPN gateways.
Given the ever-increasing trend of globalisation, VPN is invariably an invaluable tool for building the global office.