Every once in a while, a new product comes out with such a sensible and useful solution to a real problem that it makes you wonder why no one came up with the idea before. A product that eWEEK Labs recently tested that clearly fits into this category is Twingo Systems Inc.s Twingo 2.0.
A great idea for providing a secure environment for users accessing Web mail and other internal applications from a kiosk, Twingo (www.twingosystems.com) makes it very simple to ensure that sensitive data isnt left behind on public kiosk systems. However, although the product is innovative, it runs only on Windows systems, and its client installs too deeply by default on kiosk systems.
EVALUATION SHORT LIST
plug-in application that provides strong protection when using these unsafe systems. Twingo is priced at $49 per user, and a 15-day trial version is free.
Most Web mail and other Web applications use standard SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security to protect users sessions while theyre connected. However, with SSL, lots of information can potentially be left behind on the kiosk system, including URLs visited, passwords and temporary versions of any documents that were viewed. Twingo provides an additional security layer that removes these traces and thus the danger they represent.
Twingo does this by creating an encrypted, secure virtual desktop on the kiosk system. Twingo can be delivered directly from Web mail and other Web applications when a user accesses them from a kiosk. Once within this desktop, we could access our Web-based mail and other applications and view sensitive Microsoft Corp. Word and Excel applications that we had received via mail (see screen). When we finished our tasks, we simply shut down our secure virtual desktop, and all traces of our activities disappeared.
Another nice touch that we appreciated was how files can be accessed through the Twingo desktop. Once we were in the secure desktop, we couldnt access any files that were on the kiosk system. However, we could access files on removable media, such as floppies, CDs and Universal Serial Bus thumb drives. This made it possible to send documents through our Web mail client without ever having to create a copy on the kiosk system.
Although we like the idea and the basic implementation of Twingo, the product suffers from many shortcomings—not surprising for a new product from a new company. The first and most obvious is that the Twingo client works only on Windows systems. eWEEK Labs uses a lot of kiosk systems, and we can say without reservation that Mac OS-based systems at conventions and other typical kiosk areas are not rare at all.
Another interesting aspect of the Twingo client is that it makes it simple to switch back and forth between the secure desktop and the actual kiosk desktop. This can be useful for a number of reasons, but we also think this makes it too easy for a busy or forgetful employee to forget to log out, meaning that a subsequent kiosk user would have access to the secure desktop.
Twingo provides a configuration application that makes it possible for businesses to customize their Twingo clients. We could control things such as the background image and could include custom links. It was also possible to define a time-out period for the secure desktop, which helps alleviate the problem of users who might forget to log out.
As a company deploying Twingo to our employees, we liked the option of choosing to uninstall the client after users log out. This would prevent subsequent users from seeing links to company Web applications and resources.
East Coast Technical Director Jim Rapoza is at email@example.com.