Wristwatch Will Lock a PC

External hackers and mysterious system crackers get the attention, but security analysts say the real threat comes from within.

Ensure Technologies Inc., which makes a wireless access system, is preparing a kind of wearable password to make security even more automatic and effective.

Once you've entered a password, your PC is available for access when you step away. Even biometric devices such as fingerprint or retinal scanners still leave a PC open after you've logged in.

Ensure Technologies introduced XyLoc, its collection of wireless devices designed to overcome those limitations of other security systems, about a year ago. The system requires you carry a belt- or badge-mounted miniature transceiver that automatically identifies you when you approach your PC and unlocks it for you.

The company has announced a partnership with wristwatch maker Golden State International to incorporate XyLoc into Golden State's Ologi brand of wristwatches for making PC security even easier.

Pricing of the XyLoc-equipped watches will be announced upon their release next spring. The existing XyLoc system, which consists of a radio transceiver that plugs into the serial, keyboard, or USB slot of a PC, and a key card or key fob transponder, sells for $179 per PC.

Passive Support

A big advantage of XyLoc is that it doesn't require any user interaction other than walking toward the PC, according to an Ensure spokesperson. Ensure says it's the only security system that continuously monitors for the proximity of the user. The units can be set so the distance at which the transceiver and transponder identify each other can range from 1 to 50 feet. When you walk away from your PC, XyLoc software automatically blanks the screen, locks the keyboard, and disables the mouse. Background processes such as printing or Internet downloads aren't affected by the system lock.

Different XyLoc keys can be used to log different users into the same PC, automatically starting user-selected applications. Additional keys cost $60.

Each XyLoc key uses a unique 32-bit security code, and communications between the two units use an extremely low power transmission system that operates in the 900-MHz frequency band. The XyLoc software is compatible with Windows 95, 98, NT, and 2000.

If the XyLoc transponder unit is disconnected from a PC, the PC is immediately locked up. And even if the PC is stolen and the hard drive removed, users can keep determined thieves from accessing their data by using XyCrypt, Blowfish-based encryption software that is included with XyLoc. Like the rest of the XyLoc system, encryption doesn't require any user intervention after being set up. Files are automatically encrypted and decrypted on access as long as the XyLoc key is within range of the PC.

The company says it is working on additional applications for XyLoc, including providing secure access to PDAs, mobile phones, and kiosk-based PCs.

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