Secure USB stick company BlockMaster has given its enterprise customers the ability to turn the tiny flash drives into virtual PCs without the inconvenience of having to recall them from users.

The ‘Publisher' feature allows admins to equip the company's SafeStick drives with a full virtualisation client of their choice or just load some basic applications such as a web browser and email client. Although this has been available for some time, version 4.0 of the SafeConsole console allows this to happen remotely. Such an upgrade can now simply happen when the target drive is plugged into an Internet connection.

According to the Swedish company, this gives organisations the ability to retrofit the technology if they decide to adopt it at a later date, potentially avoiding the need to equip some users with laptops.

BlockMaster's CSO, Anders Pettersson, agreed that the majority of SafeStick customers used the drives for portable data storage. As far as virtualisation was concerned, "it takes a special type of customer right now," he admitted. The main use was laptop replacement, but "you don't want to replace the heavy laptop user."

Under an unassuming point upgrade, SafeConsole 4.0 has sneaked in some other important features, including the ability to remotely restore backup files to a replacement SafeStick drive if the original has been lost, blocking of the Windows autorun feature to stymie some kinds of malware, and the ability to enforce the SafeStick as the only storage device that can be plugged into a USB port.

The company has also moved from a single catch-all licensing model to a three-tier license. Customers can now buy the SafeStick in a basic ‘Intro' edition that enforces a company's password policy, and two further editions, ‘Enforce' and ‘Enforce & Enable', which add more layers of policy enforcement for extra cost.

SafeConsole 4.0 Intro is included free with any purchase of 100 drives or more, Enforce is £11 per user for 500-999 users, while Enforce & Enable is £15 for the same number.

Earlier this year BlockMaster scored a huge contract win to supply 100,000 secure USB sticks to a number of UK hospitals through its partner Softek, the largest encrypted USB stick deal yet announced for this country.