Microsoft plans virtual information wallet: Gates

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) Chairman Bill Gates on Tuesday showed off a new software tool aimed at giving consumers a virtual wallet to securely store their personal information for Internet transactions.

As part of that effort, Gates said the virtual personal information wallet, code-named "InfoCard," would allow consumers to safely manage their identities online. It seeks to provide better security by reducing reliance on usernames and passwords which are often the target of computer criminals.

This time around, however, Microsoft puts the power in the hands of the user, Gates said. In a demonstration, Microsoft showed how easily a consumer logged onto a car rental site to quickly reserve and pay for an automobile using a card from the virtual wallet.

Speaking at the annual RSA computer security conference, Gates provided a broad overview of how the industry needs to meet what he said were growing cyber threats and that consumers would not embrace technology which is not simple to use.

Microsoft first offered identification and authentication with its Passport service, but that technology failed to win wide acceptance because consumers did not embrace the idea of having the software maker manage their information.

Microsoft also said because InfoCard runs isolated from other programs on the desktop it makes it harder for hackers to install malicious software on the system.

The company plans to release the technology later this year, which will support the upcoming Internet Explore 7 on Windows Vista Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Windows server 2003.