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Security software maker Credant announced Jan. 3 that it has won a deal to provide full-disk encryption technology for all laptops controlled by the U.S. General Services Administration, which could give the firm a leg-up in negotiations with other federal agencies looking for similar tools.

Credant, based in Addison, Texas, said that the GSA awarded it a contract to protect data stored on all laptops used within the Washington, D.C.-based agency, joining similar deals recently signed by the software maker with the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management and Defense Finance and Accounting Services group.

The GSA, which employs roughly 13,000 federal workers and oversees a $66 billion annual procurement budget, traditionally has significant influence over the buying habits of other federal agencies, and its decision to choose Credant could help the firm win deals with other government bodies.

Most federal agencies are currently testing full-disk encryption technologies as they work to comply with a June 2006 White House mandate requiring them to encrypt the hard drives of all their laptops and mobile devices. The mandate was issued after a laptop was stolen from a worker at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in May 2006 that held the personal data of an estimated 28.6 million current and former members of the military.

Click here to read more about the veterans’ data loss.

Estimated to be the largest mass installation of full disk encryption software ever attempted, the federal government will distribute the security applications to millions of government-owned laptops between now and the end of March 2007, when the deadline for agencies to comply with the presidential mandate passes.

Among the other vendors vying for the lucrative federal laptop encryption deals are many of the largest players in the space, including Mobile Armor, Pointsec, SafeNet and Seagate, along with Credant.

For its part, the Department of Veterans Affairs selected software from another vendor, San Francisco-based GuardianEdge, to encrypt data on all of its laptops. The implementation program is being performed by integrator Systems Made Simple, based in Syracuse, N.Y.

Under the GSA contract, Credant and Ashburn, Va.-based integrator Intelligent Decisions will implement centrally managed encryption software and provide related support services to the agency.

Encryption software makers are not the only technology providers benefiting from the drive for increased security for the nation’s federally operated IT assets. In mid-December 2006, anti-virus specialist McAfee announced a new deal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help defend the agency’s messaging systems from spam, phishing, spyware and virus attacks.

Check out’s Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Ryan Naraine’s eWEEK Security Watch blog.