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The Virtual Answer to Laptop Security

The answer to laptop security could be virtualization.

The problem is plain enough: Growing reliance on corporate data, coupled with an increasingly mobile work force, have made security a nightmare for many IT pros. (See Users Confess Security Fears and Sorting Out Laptop Backup.) But action is urgent: If you have any doubts, hit our sister site Dark Reading and search for "laptop."

Emerging virtualization tools may hold the answer by providing centralized control over who can have access to what on a corporate laptop. (See Wanted: Virtual Desktop Services.) Products are available from a range of vendors, including VMware, XenSource, Novell, Parallels, Red Hat, and XDS. (See Insider Eyes Virtual Desktops.) Microsoft is also said to working on OS virtualization capabilities, thanks in part to its purchase of startup Softricity last year. (See Microsoft Makes Virtualization Play.)

Virtualization tools can help desktop security in two ways: first, by assigning applications to remote users via virtual machines as they log in {VMware's VDI or XDS's SIMtone VDU); or second, by divvying up a user's laptop into virtual machines to host a range of applications and security tools (Parallel's Desktop for Mac, or VMware's Workstation).

Besides helping IT managers control access to specific applications, virtual machines can inhibit the spread of viruses if a remote laptop or desktop is infected, since the application is restricted to that virtual machine.

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