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Laptop Encryption the Service Way

Laptops are becoming a a leading cause of gastric disturbance to IT managers worldwide. High-profile thefts, electronic eavesdroppers, and general lack of security, paired with workers' increasing mobility, is serving up a witches brew that can poison corporate security. What's more, a technical antidote can be annoyingly tough to implement. (See Portable Problems Prompt IT Spending and Laptop Venn & Zen.)

But what if you didn't have to do it yourself? What if you could just phone for help? That's the premise behind emerging encryption services for mobile workers, as typified by today's news that Fiberlink Communications Corp. has teamed up with Credant, a vendor of mobile-device security software, to offer services nationwide.

According to Fiberlink, all a manager has to do is lift that phone. Once an enterprise signs a contract, Fiberlink lets IT tap into its Extend360 Mobility platform through the Internet. The Fiberlink software interacts with the company's LDAP directory to establish a profile, and a human agent at Fiberlink confers with the IT department to determine encryption policies for specific users and groups of users.

All that remains is for the end user to get on the Internet to download Fiberlink's agent. (Agent software can also be distributed in a variety of other ways, but the Internet is preferred by Fiberlink.) Encryption automatically takes place when the user is obtaining data online. Fiberlink customers don't have to use their Internet transport, either -- any Internet service a laptop user deploys will be encrypted.

There is a catch -- several, in fact. First, while data accessed from corporate resources like databases is automatically encrypted, laptop users must use a password each time they want to encrypt email. As every IT manager knows, relying on end users this way is part of the laptop problem.

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