Senforce Unveils Mobile Firewall

By Ed Sutherland | Posted September 30, 2004
Small businesses with mobile workers who rely on notebooks need to know how to protect company files from hackers and other Internet threats while on the road — especially when accessing the Internet wirelessly.

Most people carry laptops that contain vital company files — that aren't on the company server or backed up in any way at all. One company hopes to make it easy for mobile employees to keep that data safe.

Senforce Technologies recently released its Senforce Portable Firewall Plus (SPF+) for mobile devices. The software takes control of laptop computers at the network level, letting you shut off wireless connectivity, control access to hotspots and ensure computers are equipped with the latest virus protection.

SPF+ is based on the same key technologies found in the Senforce Enterprise Mobility Manager: AccessAware, LocationAware and Quarantining. Unlike its big brother, SPF+ takes some of the decision-making out of the hands of users.

Business-Oriented
"Because other products are designed for consumers and not for businesses, they ask the users to make security decisions, often resulting in the user disabling the product altogether," according to Senforce. "This is not a one-size-fits-all world," says Tanya Candia, vice president of marketing at Senforce.

"The real strength of SPF+ is that it operates at the lowest network level possible," she says. It understands the Network Driver Interface Specification (NDIS), a Microsoft invention making life easier for network interface card developers.

By using a firewall based at the NDIS layer, you can control the Wi-Fi card in laptops, restricting which wireless sources are available to employees. SPF+'s AccessAware feature takes in to account a Wi-Fi signal can emanate from a secure corporate WLAN, a public hotspot across the street or a neighbor's wireless home network.

"Securing systems at the application layer leaves businesses vulnerable to security breaches and the loss of countless hours and dollars," Candia says.

SPF+ can also restrict which Wi-Fi signal wireless employees use. Often, wireless laptops try to stay connected to the strongest available signal — be it a secure corporate WLAN or the neighborhood coffee shop. SPF+ can remove all connection options except for the company WLAN.

Other firewalls "check virus definition files for updates only when a system reconnects to its network." Senforce's SPF+ employs quarantining, which forces a user to update virus software. "Until employees updates the anti-virus software, they'll see only a blank screen with a link to their anti-virus vendor," says Candia.

Increased Risk in a Wireless World
Wireless is the biggest security risk posed by laptop computers, she claims. "Unlike firewalls protecting traditional wired networks, security is much more challenging in an increasingly mobile workplace. You don't know where or when mobile workers will connect to an office network."

Candia points to the growing number of mobile employees working from home and telecommuting. Senforce's SPF+ provides mobile workers with three default configurations: home, work or alternate. The alternate configuration can be customized to let you work on the road and connect to the corporate network via public hotspot.

"With SPF+, my mobile workforce doesn't have to worry about security — we're protected no matter where we go, and it prevents the type of attacks that continue to plague other small business," says Joanne Ireland, president of Ireland Presentations, a San Francisco-based event planning business.

"SPF+ has lowered my office's down time, lowered my operating costs and almost importantly, my frustration level," says Ireland.

The software sells for $34.99.

Adapted from wi-fiplanet.com.

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