Dell stregthens security of notebook families

With the recent expansion of its Latitude and Inspiron notebook families, Dell has placed greater emphasis on security by increasing and hardening features and functionality.

  • E-Mail
By  Zoe Moleshead Published  May 26, 2003

Hardening security|~||~||~|With the recent expansion of its Latitude and Inspiron notebook families, Dell has placed greater emphasis on security by increasing and hardening features and functionality. Within the security arena, the vendor has addressed four key areas — physical, users, system and network — either through standard or optional features.

Within the networking space, Dell has placed the focus firmly on the security of wireless solutions. This says, Brian McDonnell, Latitude product marketing team, Dell, is the “single biggest obstacle to us selling more wireless-enabled products.”

“We are very close to what is happening within the wireless security realm and what we can do to make sure that our products are secure. All three of our wireless offerings [from the Latitude D family] will have Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) certification,” he adds.

Although the hardware components are WPA compliant, McDonnell says users may at a later date have to carry out a software upgrade to get the updated security features. Furthermore, the vendor is also keeping track of any additional developments among wireless standards bodies in their goal of achieving the ultimate, 802.11i, security standard. “WPA is basically a subset of 802.11i, which is the dream for [wireless] security, an all encompassing security standard — but its not finished yet,” McDonnell explains.

Additionally, Dell is examining Cisco’s security protocol known as Leap and is contemplating developing Leap compliant cards, which would ensure additional protection for any of its customers that are connecting their notebooks over Cisco wireless local area networks (WLANs).

“Cisco has developed a kind of proprietary security protocol called Leap and many of our customers have already rolled this out with Cisco cards and access points,” says McDonnell.

“Cisco is considering plans to set up a certification programme where they will certify other vendors’ cards, and we are investigating that. Our hardware may require a driver update in the future to be considered completely Leap certified, but once again we are confident that it will be ready to meet those standards,” he continues.

Dell has also beefed up its BIOS authentication system for its D family. As such, users are now required to enter two passwords for the system and one for the hard drive.

Furthermore, the vendor is incorporating smart card readers into its notebooks, and claims that by doing so it will reduce overheads for such technology.

“We have evidence from our surveys and from sources like Gartner Group and IDC that more companies are interested in deploying smart card based solutions. We want to provide that investment protection for our customers and integrate the hardware feature into the notebook so it isn’t an additional cost,” explains McDonnell.

To support its smart card plans, Dell is also looking into offering a software package that would compliment the readers and provide users with a simple client security log in. In addition to these security features, the vendor is including physical functions that will lock cables into the docking station and also secure the media modules in place. “We had complaints from some of our education customers that students were walking off with the DVD drives,” explains McDonnell.

Dell is also keen to standardise its security plans across its entire range of products and company departments. As such, it has established a Security Strategy Team, which is responsible for delivering this level of uniformity.

“We have the Security Strategy Team that consists of representatives from across the entire company — marketing, engineering, our own IT staff and also people representing desktops, notebooks and servers,” says McDonnell.

“The aim is to make sure that we are voicing a very consistent strategy across the board, and that we are not saying one thing about servers and different thing about notebooks,” he adds.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code