Infosec 08: Virtual desktop on a flash drive

SanDisk revealed to IT PRO its plan with Check Point to create a 'secure virtual workplace', where a secure corporate computing environment is contained on a USB flash drive.

The corporate environment can be accessed offline and online, with applications, data and personal settings contained in a securely protected drive. This could represent a major product shift for remote working, as employees could load up their office environment on any PC without the need of a laptop.

"Right now, very few companies give every single one of their employees a laptop, because they are very expensive and they take several thousand dollars a year to maintain," said Mike Langberg, senior public relations manager at SanDisk.

"This is going to cost much less to maintain and more workers who haven't got laptops are going to be able to get mobile with these devices."

Put simply, the new device would work by plugging in the USB flash drive into the computer you want to use, where you are prompted for a password.

This gives the user access to the secure storage on the drive together with a test for any malware on the computer. Then the desktop is replaced by the corporate workspace.

"You can launch applications directly from the drive inside of the security shell which separates it from the host," said Dror Todress, senior manager for SanDisk marketing enterprise division.

"So if the host is infected or is not online you will still be able to launch the environment, work on your corporate applications, save data, save personal settings, and also toggle back and forth to my other PC," he added.

He said that if you wanted to get online, this could be done using Check Point's VPM technology.

SanDisk said that this technology wasn't there to replace the laptop, but would help the companies which were outsourcing the purchasing and maintenance of their laptops to employees.

Todress said: "It would give them a greater IT budget and allow them to get any laptop they choose and also have it serviced. It would take the load off IT in handling the hardware, and they only thing they would have to manage are the images on the drives."

IT PRO asked about the security of using USB flash drives and the fact that it was likely to be a lot easier to lose something so small as opposed to a laptop.

"The fact that is hardware encrypted makes it a lot more secure than any kind of laptop," stated Todress. "If you lose it, and someone finds it that doesn't have a password, it's like a stone."

Langberg said that if you lost one of the devices, the only cost would be replacing the stick, because no data would escape a secure drive. He also said that it was very easy to back up.

Todress said that he hoped that the 'secure virtual workplace' USB flash memory drive would be out by the end of the year.