Imagine a world where users don't lose their passwords. A world where a lost laptop doesn't cause a security panic. A world where files can be safely stored so that no unauthorized users -- not even your own IT staff -- can peek at them.
Sound futuristic? Some enterprises are already starting to see such capabilities in their own networks, thanks to standards from Trusted Computing Group and software such as Wave Systems Inc.'s Embassy Trust Suite Version 5.1, which was introduced earlier this week.
ETS 5.1 is one of the first PC security packages to take full advantage of TCG's Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2, a set of specifications that enables vendors to add a "security chip" microprocessor to any PC.
TPM 1.1 chips made by vendors such as Atmel, Broadcom, and Infineon, have become standard issue on most PC hardware, but PCs that use TPM 1.2 only began shipping a few months ago.
"Using TPM and Embassy Trust Suite has made a huge difference in the way we administer security," says Chris Cahalin, network manager at Papa Gino's, which operates some 400 restaurants throughout New England. "It's not only made our client machines and files more secure, but it's given us a lot more control in IT."
ETS 5.1 is a set of security tools and applications that leverage TPM chips to encrypt files, folders, and passwords on a laptop or PC, leaving the key only in the hands of the end user and the IT department. The keys can be given out in the form of smart cards, or the user can be authenticated via biometrics or certificate.
The net result is that users of TPM 1.2 and ETS 1.1 can lock their hard drives, folders, and files via an encryption key that can only be decrypted by the authorized user. A thief would not be able to read any of the files on a stolen TPM laptop, and even users inside the company can be locked out of sensitive files on any end station.
"Our vice president of finance can set up a 'virtual vault' for payroll information that only he and a few other select people can see," notes Cahalin. "Even the people in IT are locked out, unless they have a very good reason to see it and they get authorization to use the key."
ETS 5.1 and TPM 1.2 also offer new password management functions and a sophisticated wizard to help new users set up their security options and settings. "We've seen some of our customers really cut down on the time they spend administering passwords," says Steven Sprague, president and CEO of Wave Systems.
Although most new PCs have TPM, many enterprises have yet to turn on their functionality, Sprague concedes. "I would encourage every enterprise to take a few of their new PCs into the lab, turn on this technology, and see what it can do," he says. "It'll change the way they look at end-user security."
Cahalin agrees. "We've completely rewritten our security policies to take advantage of TPM, and it's made a difference both in administration and in our overall level of security."
ETS 5.1 is available now at $99 for a standalone PC. Enterprises can expect a volume discount on the client, but larger environments will also require the ETS server, which starts at $3,000.
Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading
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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