Credant Technologies is to release an upgrade that can selectively encrypt data on portable storage media, such as USB drives and Apple iPods.

External Media Shield (EMS) is an application that works with the company’s flagship Credant Mobile Guardian (CMG) software. CMG lets users set encryption policies and then enforce them on clients such as notebooks, tablet PCs, and smart phones. The new code runs on portable drives and other devices that plug into these clients, allowing encryption policies to be enforced on these peripherals and the data they carry.

Other changes to Credant Mobile Guardian, in Release 5.3, include new reporting charts that display an array of data graphically; support for the newest Windows Mobile 5 devices, for Windows Mobile 6 and Windows Vista; MacOS support that is now in beta; and the addition of about 45 new policy options, such as configuring EMS so a password must have a certain length, use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, and so on.

The new features are part of a burgeoning market in software applications aimed at protecting corporate data that passes beyond the locked doors of the enterprise, via notebook PCs and other mobile devices, wireless connections and portable storage devices.

To use the new EMS component, users can download the code via their notebook, itself running the Mobile Guardian software and then to an external storage device. Among other features, EMS installs the encryption key, which can be managed from the Mobile Guardian server, and sets up a password dialog box for the device. The software is smart enough so that if used with an MP3 player, the software can demand the password when you try to access data files but not when you access music or video files.

If you plug this now-shielded storage device into any host client that lacks the CMG code, EMS challenges you for the correct password. If authenticated, you can then access the files, via the built-in EMS browser, and update, delete or create files on the drive. EMS will encrypt or decrypt the files as needed.

For a home PC used by an employee, the employee can install an additional piece of code that lets the PC recognise EMS on the external device. Data moved to the device will be automatically encrypted and password-protected.

With EMS code added to CMG, help-desk staff can work with a user who has forgotten his EMS password. The staffer authenticates the user and issues a one-time access code, which the user enters in the EMS dialog box to access the files on the storage device.

Credant is one of a pack of companies addressing security risks and threats with mobile computing and mobile data. Early this year, Pointsec released a version of its Device Protector (formerly DiskNet Pro, acquired from Reflex Magnetics). The software sets and enforces policies regarding the use of USB and other interfaces to copy and move corporate data. Rival vendors include Centennial, Safend, SecureWave and Smartline.

CMG 5.3 with EMS is available. The price is unchanged, with an average per-user list price of $85. Volume discounts apply.