As co-founder, chairman and chief executive of Check Point Software Technologies, Gil Shwed has received plenty of accolades for contributions his Internet firewall pioneer has made to the information technology sector over the past 10 years. But he recently received arguably one of the most coveted of honours for high-tech innovations. In October, the Computer History Museum in the United States enshrined a copy of Check Point's VPN-1/FireWall-1 software package in its collection. The museum, in Mountain View, California, is home to the world's largest collection of computing-related items, including hardware, software, photos, films, videos and documents. Notable artifacts include such innovations as the Enigma code-breaking device used in World War II, the Apollo Guidance Computer used in the United States' early space exploration programme, and the Cray-1A supercomputer. 'We are very proud to have played a part in the evolution of computing, and applaud the museum's goal of technological preservation,' Mr Shwed said. Mr Shwed, still only in his mid-30s, defined a key segment of the Internet market in 1993 when he founded Check Point and developed highly reliable, industrial-strength security for the worldwide network of computers. Mr Shwed's vision of secure Internet communications was realised when he created the first commercially available firewall product, Check Point FireWall-1. Internet firewall software represents a set of related programs, located at a network gateway server, that protects the information resources of a private network such as an intranet from users on other networks. Soon afterwards, Mr Shwed developed Check Point's firewall companion piece, VPN-1, which stands for virtual private network. This program allows companies to use a public telecommunication infrastructure, such as the Internet, to provide remote offices or individual users with secure access to their organisation's network at less cost than using private leased lines. Mr Shwed is also credited with having invented Stateful Inspection technology, the industry standard for Internet security, and holds the patent on this. Check Point is recognised as the market leader in Internet security, with more than 247,000 installations and over 112 million client businesses. Check Point's trailblazing success in Internet security has secured Mr Shwed a place among the IT industry luminaries who founded and developed hugely successful companies without first finishing college. Others in the top rank include Microsoft's Bill Gates, Apple Computer's Steve Jobs and Michael Dell of Dell Computer. What has set Israel-based Mr Shwed apart from those American pioneers, who started their businesses from home, is that his expertise in programming code was honed by a four-year stint in the military. All Israeli citizens do mandatory military service. Mr Shwed joined the elite electronic intelligence arm of the Israeli Defence Forces, where the seeds of his network security vision were apparently sown. Before founding Check Point, Mr Shwed took part in and managed development projects at Optrotech, the Israeli Defence Forces, National Semiconductor and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has been a consultant for the development and deployment of open systems to corporations in the US and Israel. He was also head of research and development for an American-Israeli software company in the field of materials handling. With fellow software programmers Marius Nacht and Shlomo Kramer, Mr Shwed developed the code for what became Firewall-1 and drew up what has become the modus operandi for every high-tech start-up from Israel. Check Point saw early on that getting a high profile in the US and securing contracts with big enterprises there would push the company's expansion to a worldwide market. Mr Shwed secured a hefty contract with Sun Microsystems, which bundled Check Point's firewall product in its Unix servers, and never looked back. Check Point's marketing resources are now run out of the US and all research and development is in Ramat Gan, near Jerusalem. Just as young IT entrepreneurs in the US look to Mr Gates or Mr Jobs as their role models, young hi-tech start-ups in Israel see Mr Shwed as their hero. 'Israel used to be known as a large supplier of oranges to the world. Now it is known for its high-industry,' Israeli Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong chairman Rafael Aharoni said. 'We have Gil Shwed to thank for that as he has made others in Israel believe that they can make a difference in the IT industry.' Check Point has barely tapped the mainland market, which is why the company is mounting a renewed campaign to make its Internet security technologies a standard for businesses and consumers there. 'We remain focused on software research and development, so we need partners in China to license our technologies, manufacture the hardware, and sell it to small businesses and consumers,' said Mr Shwed.