Dell Now Protecting Work Spaces in Its New PCs, Tablets

Dell Data Protection puts a virtualized container around each application instance to protect it from the rest of the device and the network.

Thanks to a new partnership with an under-the-radar but powerful company named Invincea, Dell may have a legitimate stake in the ground as the first Tier 1 IT company in years to make a truly radical improvement in enterprise security.

Up to now Invincea did its work only at high security levels within the U.S. government, the military, and highly regulated large commercial enterprises in verticals such as oil and gas exploration, financial services and health care. Dell announced June 25 that it has partnered with the seven-year-old Fairfax, Va.-based company to bring application-level security to all of its end-user devices—laptops, notebooks, desktops and tablets—under the label Dell Data Protection.

Much of this new-gen security will be added for no extra cost on Dell devices.

Instead of only encrypting the device, locking down the operating system or using a traditional virtual private network, Dell Data Protection through Invincea puts a shield—or virtualized container—around each browser or application instance to protect it from the rest of the device and the network on which it resides. That way, if a document or link is opened that is infested with a virus, botnet or other digital malady, the instance is isolated and can be discarded with no harm, no foul. A colored edge actually appears on the window to indicate to the user that the instance is protected.

If there is an invasive incident inside the container, a full report of the instance is recorded and sent back to Invincea to add to its ever-growing archive of malware knowledge.

This is a distinct approach from most others, which generally concentrate on locking down access points, the network, document folders, the device itself—or the operating system, which is what new-gen security provider Bromium does, for example. Each of these options is still available in new Dell devices if users want them.

Protected Workspace Came From DARPA Project

Invincea's secret sauce, called DDP Protected Workspace on Dell devices, came out of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-funded project for advanced endpoint protection. It stops cyber-attacks that include spear-phishing, watering hole attacks, drive-by downloads, poisoned search engine results and others that target end users.
"Each time an employee accesses the Internet or opens an e-mail attachment, they run the risk of becoming the unwitting accomplice to a data breach," Anup Ghosh, Invincea's CEO and founder, told eWEEK. "First of all, if you look at basically every other security company out there, it's based on some sort of list. The premise is that someone, somewhere gets infected, and then they spread it far and wide via their lists. It's a reactive strategy.

"Second, the guys writing the malware have figured out that all they have to do is slightly tweak the malware and replicate it on a large basis, then the security can't keep up. That's today's status quo. That approach doesn't work for targeted attacks. This is where we step in. If you are targeted by someone and they send you an email with an infected attachment or link (a spear-fishing exploit), we protect the user from himself."

Ghosh said that Protected Workspace is completely unobtrusive to users so their everyday workflow is uninterrupted.

Dell, which is starting a new campaign spotlighting security awareness among all device users, obviously was impressed with this approach. The Austin, Texas-based IT giant spent a lot of time checking out a number of different security schemes before deciding this was the one to use across all its products.

Conventional Security Based on Protecting Lists

"Traditional security approaches are failing to solve the big challenges, because they are based on legacy approaches," Brett Hansen, Dell's executive director of end user computing, told eWEEK. "We believe that security should start at the end-point purchase. As you are buying your next device, you should be thinking about buying security."

Because of the fast advancement of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend in the workplace, enterprises are exasperated about what to do to keep business information safe amid the plethora of devices employees use on a daily basis—most of which are not using corporate networks.

"Among the companies that I speak to, there's an admission that they're not doing a good job (in overall device security), and that they have vulnerabilities; there's also a sense of despair and of 'I don't know what to do,' " Hansen said. "There's a lot of security elements out there, they're confusing, they don't fully understand this space; they're asking, 'What do I need?' "

To this end, Dell has brought forth its all-new security scheme, using Invincea as the touch point.

"End users, by their nature, do silly things. We click on links we shouldn't, open attachments we shouldn't, lose things, leave things where they shouldn't be," Hansen said. "Ultimately, this creates vulnerabilities, which hackers know they can exploit. The bad guys are increasingly focused on end users for those reasons."

Protected Workspace Available in One-Year Subscriptions

A one-year subscription to DDP Protected Workspace software is included on Dell Precision, Latitude and OptiPlex PCs, Hansen said. Once the application is activated, it begins moving users' browsers, PDF readers and the Microsoft Office suite into a contained, virtual environment where it automatically identifies malware attacks in real time, based on behaviors and actions inside the environment and away from the host operating system.

Dell Data Protection Encryption is packaged in a single suite. It features Windows 8 support and auto deployment and provisioning of users when purchased factory-installed on Dell Precision workstations, OptiPlex desktops, and Latitude laptops and tablets.

Dell commercial PCs that use second-generation Intel v-Pro chips will feature file-level encryption that protects data on the client, on remote media, on mobile devices and in the cloud and virtualized container that protects against zero-day threats, Hansen said.

The company's new authentication software, DDP Security Tools, enables IT managers to centrally manage both their encryption and authentication policies on the same console. Authentication options include fingerprint, smart card and contactless smart card readers.

DDP Security Tools now ships on every Dell commercial PC.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...