SanDisk to make USB security push

Flash memory maker will announce a product to help businesses manage and control the use of USB drives, which security experts call risky.

Joris Evers Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Joris Evers covers security.
Joris Evers
2 min read
Flash memory maker SanDisk next week plans to announce a product designed to help businesses manage and control the use of USB drives.

The Milpitas, Calif., company has scheduled the announcement for the RSA Conference in San Francisco, the annual bonanza of security products for businesses. "SanDisk will unveil a comprehensive solution for the enterprise security market, providing protection and control for USB flash drives," the company said in a statement.

USB drives and other gadgets carried around by workers pose a real security risk, security experts have said. Connecting the devices to work PCs could be a vehicle for malicious code to enter a corporate network, or a tool for disgruntled employees to smuggle confidential information out of the office, for example.

SanDisk is entering a market crowded with specialized players such as Tablus and Centennial Software. Also, functionality to let organizations create policies for the use of devices, or block the gadgets altogether, is making it into mainstream PC security products. Microsoft has added some of this functionality to Windows Vista.

"SanDisk is just taking advantage of a short-term opportunity," said Rich Mogull, a Gartner analyst. "Since Device control is clearly on its way to being a subset of other product suites, it's hard to see any real future here for SanDisk outside partnership."

A SanDisk representative declined to provide additional details on the company's plans ahead of the announcement. However, insiders expect SanDisk to announce a repackaged version of the mTrust product line, which the company acquired last year with its $1.55 billion takeover of mSystems.

The mTrust lineup includes mTrust Shield, software that lets organizations create, manage and audit centralized policies to authorize trusted storage devices to access network resources, while limiting the use of other personal devices and interfaces, according to a description on the mSystems Web site.

Other mTrust products include the Xkey Drive, which offers 256MB to 8GB of secured personal storage, and the mTrust Manager, centrally managed software for managing company-issued USB flash drives.

SanDisk also has been repackaging other mSystems products. At this month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the company rolled out flash-based disk drives for laptops. The bulk of the expertise for that product also came from mSystems, an Israeli outfit that was an early pioneer in USB flash keys.