- Compact design
- Proactive protection
- Easy to manage
- Web filtering
- Frees up system resources
- Doesn’t protect multiple users
- Doesn’t protect from physical media
Notebooks out on the road can be the bane of an IT manager’s life, as they don’t generally enjoy the protection of the corporate network, where systems are shielded from external threats. A poorly protected notebook can get infected while out of the office, and infiltrate security threats into the network on its return.
The Pico Pro from Yoggie is an innovative mobile security device that's designed to extend corporate-level security to travelling notebooks. It's a Linux 2.6-based appliance on a USB stick, powered by a 520MHz Intel PXA270 processor and 128MB of memory. Thirteen security applications run on the USB stick, allowing internet traffic to be screened before it executes on your computer; only once it has been cleansed is it allowed to enter your PC. Following the introduction of Yoggie’s first-generation Gatekeeper series, Pico Pro helps to protect you against hacking, virus, malware, worms and other attacks.
The main benefits of hardware-based security such as the Pico Pro compared to running security software on your system is that it protects from the outside: threats are kept away from your notebook. Pico Pro also helps to avoid Windows operating system vulnerabilities and avoids system performance degradation, because all of the security-related processing is done on the USB appliance rather than on your computer. Security updates also accumulate on the Pico Pro, not on your notebook.
A little bulkier than a typical USB flash drive, Pico Pro self-manages the 13 preinstalled security applications. These include antivirus (Kaspersky), anti-spam (MailShell), anti-phishing (MailShell), anti-spyware (Kaspersky), intrusion detection and prevention, web and mail proxies, and firewall. It also offers web filtering (SurfControl), parental content control, Adaptive Security Policy, Multi-Layer Security Agent, as well as a VPN client.
When using unsecured internet hotspots, which are notoriously risky locations for the mobile professional, Pico Pro users can connect safe in the knowledge that the device reveals only its own IP address, and not the notebook's; it also puts a physical barrier between the notebook and incoming threats.
Web filtering, which can be enabled via the management interface, allows web sites to be blocked by category. The Pico Pro does a pretty decent job here, blocking adult content successfully; blocking email/chat will also stop users from accessing Gmail, Live Mail and other web-based mail clients. The front page of the management interface gives a high-level overview of security status using the traffic light system of green/yellow/red to represent low/medium/high alert levels. Various reports are available to give a graphical representation of alerts.
The main selling point of Yoggie’s Pico Pro is its hassle-free approach to security. No complicated installation and configuration is required — after plugging the device into a spare USB 2.0 port and installing the driver software, it immediately begins cleaning all of the internet traffic running to and from your notebook. You don’t have to worry about managing updates for multiple software applications. Nor are you bombarded with confusing pop-up security messages. And the way it prevents unprotected or unauthorised internet access by disabling Net access without the device plugged in is exemplary. The downside, of course, is that if you leave the Pico Pro at home you’re in trouble.
The only criticisms are that you’re relying on just one company to manage all your security. It’s also worth remembering that Pico Pro doesn’t protect you from malware delivered via USB keys, CDs and so on.
In addition, a vulnerability was reported back in July that could have been exploited by malicious coders to compromise a vulnerable device. This was caused by an input validation error in the ping functionality of Pico Pro’s web interface and could have been exploited to inject and execute arbitrary shell commands via backtick characters. Successful exploitation required that the user visited a malicious web site while being logged on to the device. Updates have been released and applied automatically, but the epsiode does show that no solution is ever 100 per cent secure and that vigilance is always required.