Sprint-Nextel and Alcatel-Lucent plan to introduce this week a mobile data card that doubles as a laptop security mechanism.
The SprintSecure Laptop Guardian has its own battery power, and if removed, turns a laptop into essentially a paperweight, said Jessica Haney, a product manager at Alcatel-Lucent.
The card has a small operating system, CPU (central processing unit), memory and SD slot. When inserted into a laptop, it hijacks the TCP/IP stack, so the card can enforce policies regarding what users can download, no matter what method the user employs to connect to the Internet. Although the card offers access to Sprint's data network, users can get online using any other standard method.
It also includes GPS (global positioning system) so an IT administrator can locate it and the laptop.
The card works in tandem with a gateway appliance that an enterprise installs. The gateway terminates the VPN (virtual private network) connection for the card and contains management software. An enterprise that has heavy security needs across all workers might use the new product to replace an existing VPN, Haney said. But many companies may use the Alcatel-Lucent product to support only a set of users that have sensitive data on their machines.
An administrator can remotely lock and wipe the laptop, in case it's stolen or lost. IT managers can also change passwords remotely and prevent users from accessing specific applications, such as a certain type of browser or instant messaging program.
The embedded battery allows IT managers to strategically push updates out to the card at night, for example, when the laptop is probably off and the wireless data network relatively free. Once the user starts up the laptop, the updates can automatically be applied to the computer from the card.
The card handles authentication and encryption and stores the encryption key.
Alcatel-Lucent makes the card and gateway but Sprint will sell them. Companies must sign up for unlimited data plans for each user plus pay an additional monthly service fee for the security support.
The system interoperates with some existing encryption and update services like Microsoft System Management Server and Patchlink. Alcatel-Lucent plans to work with other vendors to share APIs in order to integrate with other existing technologies.