WinZip 9.0 Beta Adds AES Support

By Thor Olavsrud | Posted May 13, 2003
Data-compression specialist WinZip Computing unleashed a public beta of the next version of its WinZip utility for Windows this week, adding support for AES, the Advanced Encryption Standard endorsed for governmental and private data encryption.

WinZip said its WinZip 9.0 beta adds the AES features to the new versions of the WinZip E-Mail Attachment Add-On for Outlook as well as the WinZip Command Line Support Add-On. The E-Mail Attachment Add-On for Outlook streamlines the process of compressing files attached to Microsoft Outlook e-mail messages, reducing transmission time and disk storage. The Command Line Support Add-On allows users to quickly zip and unzip from the command line, and to automate repetitive tasks using batch files or scripts.

The new AES capabilities support 128-bit and 256-bit encryption, and the company noted that its implementation is FIPS-197 certified by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which selected AES as the federal government's new encryption standard. Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans finalized the federal government's approval of the standard in December 2001.

AES is a 128-bit block cipher algorithm based on Rijndael, a mathematic formula developed by Belgian cryptographers Joan Daemen, of Proton World International, and Vincent Rijmen, of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Rijndael (pronounced Rhine-doll), named after its creators, was selected by the U.S. government in October 2000 as a new encryption technique for protecting computerized information. NIST, an agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, selected the formula after a four-year competition.

AES replaced the venerable Data Encryption Standard (DES), which was adopted by the Defense Department in 1977. DES is a 56-bit encryption technique that stood firm for nearly 20 years before scientists were able to crack it using massive parallel network computer attacks and special-purpose "DES-cracking" hardware. By 1993, other formulas, such as Blowfish, came along, sporting 64-bit algorithms. Cryptographers then went a step further and developed a method of encrypting data three times over — a variant known as "Triple-DES."

But Triple-DES was an imperfect solution, putting a considerable drain on CPU resources because data was encrypted and decrypted three times over. Because AES works with data in a 128-bit key size (allowing for 340 undecillion — or 340 followed by 36 zeros — possible keys), it allows programmers to hide critical data while putting less of a strain on CPUs.

Additionally, the company noted that it is publishing full specifications of its AES support, which will allow authors of other Zip file utilities to adopt its implementation.

WinZip 9.0 also adds support for 64-bit extensions to the Zip file format, which the company said eliminates all practical restrictions on Zip file capacity. WinZip has also added support for the "enhanced deflate" compression method.

WinZip goes for $29 per copy, with site license pricing available. The company said all registered users of earlier English-language versions of the utility will be able to download a free upgrade of WinZip 9.0.

The official release is due later this year.

Adapted from internetnews.com.

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