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Startup Promises 'Disruptive,' Hardware-Based Endpoint Security Solution

InZero box creates 'sandbox' that quarantines malware from PC, inventors say

A startup company today launched a new hardware device that promises to prevent malware and viruses from ever entering the computer it protects.

The InZero Secure PC is essentially two computers in one: a standard computing module and a secure "InZero Gateway" module, the company says. The InZero Gateway module is directly connected to the Internet, isolating and hosting potentially dangerous network applications while transferring files to and from the computing module, which is permanently offline.

"Clearly, current software-based approaches to security are not working," says General Wesley Clark, chairman of the advisory board for InZero. "We believe this hardware approach is a new, disruptive solution."

"Essentially, it's a hardware 'sandbox' -- a strictly-enforced, hardware isolation mechanism" that separates the computer from its primary source of infection -- the Internet, says Phil Zimmerman, creator of PGP and an expert on data security and encryption, who has reviewed the technology and appeared at the announcement event.

"In effect, InZero's approach is not trying to understand malware, but instead to create an environment where malware cannot execute," the startup says.

Because the hardware is essentially a dedicated device without a traditional OS or applications, the malware it receives is rendered inert, InZero says. It can neither execute on the PC nor promulgate to other PCs. And because the hardware requires file transfer, it can be configured to prevent internal employees from executing tasks that are against corporate policy, says Lou Hughes, chairman and CEO of InZero.

The device is initially being targeted toward enterprises that have a business need for strong endpoint security, but the company hopes to eventually broaden its user base to include all types of enterprises and even consumers, officials said.

The device is priced at $50 to $80 per month, which includes updates, InZero says. "For about the price of a BlackBerry, you can go anywhere you want on the Internet without fear," Hughes said.

Adam Hils, principal research analyst at Gartner, who also appeared at the announcement, says InZero's technology is sound, but the startup's go-to-market strategy has yet to be proved.

"This product will start to get traction with the security elite, and it will probably be there for two or three years before it enters the mainstream," Hils said. "Once it enters that phase, then it can move on to the consumers."

The details on how the product works were a bit sketchy -- InZero requires reviewers to sign a nondisclosure agreement before getting the full product overview. Zimmerman says InZero might be protecting itself against competitors, but that the company could "publish the full architecture of the device, and it still wouldn't really help hackers to break it."

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Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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