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Roaming laptops protected

An established security firm and a start-up take new approaches to guarding the data on portable and desktop computers.

Confronting one disadvantage to laptops' portability--they are more easily stolen and lost--an established security firm and a start-up are taking new approaches to guarding not just the hardware, but also the data on portable and desktop computers.

Axent Technologies (AXNT) today unveiled its new OmniGuard/Security Briefcase, a bundle of Axent remote access security for corporate road warriors. At the same time, 17-employee Computer Sentry Software has signed a deal to bundle its CyberAngel software and monitoring service on new laptops from Acer America under the Texas Instrument and Acer brands.

A potentially bigger development, Computer Sentry also has struck an unannounced, multimillion-dollar deal with 123-year-old security specialist ADT Security Systems to offer CyberAngel to 125,000 small businesses. The deal also allows Computer Sentry's sales force to resell to ADT's corporate customers. ADT bills itself as North America's largest electronic security company, and CyberAngel gives it a way to expand into computer security from its core business of securing physical locations.

W. Dyrk Halstead, Computer Sentry chief executive, said, "Corporations want to know about unauthorized use of their machines, and they are much more concerned about their data than the hardware."

The CyberAngel service works like this: When a PC is turned on, a special, unprompted password must be entered. If it's not, CyberAngel sends a message over the network or, if the machine has a modem, through a phone line to the CyberAngel server. Within two minutes the user is notified by pager, email, fax, or other means that an unauthorized user is on the machine.

The notice includes the phone number or IP address of where the machine was connected, a phone number and an address for the site, and a map of the location.

Halstead said, "It's one of those simple ideas turned into reality. It's stealthy, fast, and not expensive." Base price is $25 for the software and $60 annually for the notification service, with steep discounts on large orders.

Axent's "security briefcase" includes an upgraded version 1.4 of its OmniGuard/Enterprise Access Control for Windows 95 (EAC/95) with new installation wizards to secure a single laptop or implement an enterprise-wide desktop protection policy.

Files are secured from the time the PC is switched on so thieves or rogue applications can't see data, and EAC encrypts new files automatically. Unattended PCs are automatically locked, requiring users to log on again to use the machine.

The new version of OmniGuard/EAC/95 is available now from Axent or its resellers for $89 per workstation, with quantity discounts.

The "security briefcase" includes OmniGuard/PowerVPN, which combines two-factor authentication with data encryption and authorization to protect information sent over the public Internet. It also includes OmniGuard/Defender which creates unique one-time passwords that cannot be compromised.