As a result of the increasing seriousness of the problem, technology vendors are cooking up a wide range of tools aimed at helping companies at least control the manner in which consumer devices can be used within their walls or on their networks. Among the companies attempting to address the issue directly is Microsoft, which is promising tools that give IT administrators expanded capabilities for managing the use of device-control in its next-generation Vista operating system."We talked to many enterprise customers, and they told us that they wanted an easier way to manage and protect corporate information assets," said David Zipkin, a product manager at the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant. "One of the more common scenarios where intellectual property assets were compromised was by employees plugging in external storage devices into the corporate network and copying files." Another potential answer to the security problems posed by consumer technologies is the use of applications such as Centennial Softwares DeviceWall, which creates a virtual "white list" of approved devices assigned to specified groups and individual users, which can be configured to automatically block any device not explicitly permitted by a firms policies. While Microsofts efforts in Vista address device-controls, Centennial officials said, DeviceWall goes one step further by directly protecting a companys databases at the same time. By tying someones device usage privileges directly to their user names and passwords, company officials say, there is little room left for people to secretly bypass programs meant to direct group policies, a feat they say isnt hard for experienced users to pull off. One company using DeviceWall is Motor Information Systems, a specialty automotive publishing company owned by Hearst Publishing, and based in Troy, Mich. Network Administrator Jeff Schmitt said his company has been using the application for six months to protect its wealth of editorial content, the lifeblood of Motors business. "We have some people who need to use USB ports to print information or download photos, but at the same time you appreciate the risk of having someone plug in their iPod and walk off with a gigabyte of data," said Schmitt. To read more about Everdreams service that aims to secure lost or stolen devices, click here. "This way we can allow people to have unique privileges based on their jobs, and even keep an eye on who is trying to attach something else to the network and warn them if theres a potential problem." In fact, before announcing that the company had launched the new software, Motors IT department was able to turn on DeviceWall and find out which employees were already breaking policies and warn them about future transgressions, he said, which has eliminated most risky behavior altogether. Next Page: Blended tools.
Enhancements to the softwares Group Policy settings, which allow administrators to enforce configuration settings for individuals, groups and specific machines, claim the power to block access to removable devices such as CD-ROMs, DVD drives and USB tokens.