Check Point has become the latest vendor to push the USB stick as the road warrior's best friend, announcing a way for business travellers to carry around their office desktop on a single drive.
Developed in Check Point's homeland of Israel in collaboration with SanDisk, the new drive, dubbed ‘Abra' (as in ‘Abracadabra'), lets users run a virtualised workspace on any PC they encounter while on the road in a way that firewalls it from that system. Plugging in an Abra for the first time requires no software installation, reboot or no admin rights to the host PC.
Once up and running, the embedded workspace connects the user through a VPN tunnel to the corporate network. Data and applications can be accessed with necessary policy enforcement - such as controlling which websites can be visited - and authentication. All data moving to and from the Abra is encrypted and the drive remains encrypted when unplugged.
Check Point will pitch the device as a cheaper alternative to carrying around laptops - a sort of 21st Century VPN.
"Abra will change the way people work, whether remotely or while on the go," said Check Point CEO, Gil Shwed. "Abra is like no other tool, not only combining virtualisation, VPN and strong data security into a single ultra-portable device, but doing it in an easy to use cost effective manner. The days of travelling with bulky laptops are behind us."
Abra could be seen as a convenient way to get VPN access up and running. Normally this would be set up on the host machine using a dedicated piece of software or through the default client built into Windows itself. This can be complex and insecure because anyone gaining access has some of the data needed to authenticate themselves.
With Abra the VPN is packaged into a single secure environment in a way that abolishes the need for a separate PC and remains secure both during a session and once it has closed. Sign-on happens using a virtual keyboard, while the drive scans the host to make sure it uses an up-to-date antivirus program.
Check Point is not the only company using the idea of virtualised environments built into simple portable devices. In January, Iomega announced v.Clone, a USB hard drive that allows users to carry around an entire clone of their home system.
Elsewhere, virtualised environments run from USB sticks are all the rage, with two others appearing from IronKey and Network Intercept in the last fortnight, both based around secure online bank access rather than VPNs.
Abra is priced at $140 (approx £93) for the 4GB drive, or $210 (£140) for the 8GN model. Central management and updating is through Check Point's SmartDashboard.