Smart card vendor Gemalto and Lexar Media have introduced a Vista compatible smart card device designed to secure network access and store confidential data.

Known as the Smart Enterprise Guardian (SEG), the USB device comes in 1GB and 2GB capacities, and supports authentication, digital signature and file encryption.

The USB device uses Gemalto’s "tamper proof" .NET- smart card technology with Lexar’s hardware-based memory encryption technology. Essentially, the SEG stores personal digital identity credentials and logon information, allowing users to easily access their intranet, transfer sensitive files and exchange confidential emails from any location and from any PC.

The SEG device is targeted at the SMB and enterprise markets, and it gives the network administrator the ability to implement either one-time password or PKI-based authentication, allowing for secure access to networks and remote access.

The device runs automatically when plugged into a USB port and no software set-up is required. Users enter a PIN to unlock the secure memory partition and access confidential files stored in the drive. File encryption and decryption are performed on-the-fly without any additional user interaction, making it simple for non technical staff. The device also stores the user’s digital identity credentials.

The portable memory is secured with AES 256-bit hardware-based encryption, and authentication is provided by Gemalto’s One-Time-Password or PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) services.

Native support for the device is built into Windows Vista, and is also available as a Microsoft update for Windows XP and 2000 systems.

Admin support for SEG is integrated into Microsoft Identity Lifecycle Manager and Gemalto Strong Authentication Server. In addition, SEG is also supported by Gemalto’s Allynis Device Administration Service, a web-based provisioning, administration and support service for small and medium size enterprises.

“The ecosystem surrounding authentication and authorisation for Personal Portable Security Device (PPSD) has tremendous potential for innovation and adoption,” said Chris Christiansen, Program Vice President for IDC’s Security Products and Services group. “By adding secure portable data storage to PPSD, the SEG increases security for individuals’ identity and their personal information while on the move.”

”The Smart Enterprise Guardian represents a new category of multi-purpose smart USB devices which ensure trusted business mobility,” added Cédric Collomb, senior vice-president, identity and access management at Gemalto.

The SEG stick will be available at the start of next year, with prices expected to be in the 60 euros (£43) to 70 euros (£50) region.

Gemalto is the resulting company after the world’s two largest smart vendors (Axalto and Gemplus) merged back in 2006. Earlier this year Gemalto introduced a smart card USB device that aimed to make web shopping safer.