Monday, February 12, 2007

Kensington Notebook Firewall

Written by Jay This little piece of equipment made its way onto my stores shelves the other day, made by Kensington, the “Personal Firewall for Notebooks” resembles a USB key in every way shape and form. So how does it protect in “all wireless environments”? Is it a wireless card as well? If so does it have flashdrive capabilities built in? Lets check it out...

Device in its Packaging


Kensington claims this device :

Detects and protects against hackers in all wireless environments--even outside corporate firewalls.

Hides your identity from the Internet.
Safeguards important data stored on your notebook.

Simply plug the key into your notebook to activate the firewall; remove the key to disable.
Protection will not interfere with corporate firewall and anti-virus software.

Installation

Upon putting it my USB port, it detected that I was running other firewall software that conflicts with the device, so that was the answer to how it protects (although it seemed a bit obvious), it runs a software firewall. After not just disabling, but having to uninstall my Sygate Personal Firewall, the device (and software) finally installed itself.

One thing I found interesting during the installation, Windows detected the device not only as a USB mass storage device, but it also detected as a CD-Rom drive. This makes it so the program files are untouchable, they can not be deleted, modified or re written, and the drive auto runs the same as if you were inserting a CD. Good idea. The device shows up in My Computer as both a removable disk and a CD Rom. The real disappointing part is that the total combined size of the drive is under 12 MB, with only 5 of that writable. The directory it creates in the Program Files folder is relatively tiny to begin with, just over 500Kb.

The Firewall Interface

There’s honestly not a huge amount to say here, it is an overall user friendly interface, but as with most software firewalls, if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. There are slider bars for levels of security, ranging from high to low to custom, for both internet and network settings, with profiles for both home and office. Overall the firewall is a nice little piece of software with quite a few of the more common options. The one nice thing I see about the software is the profiles for both home and office.

Conclusion

Overall I think the device can be easily (and freely) replaced by Sygate or Tiny Firewall. The space to store things on the flash drive is a nice added touch, but with only 5 MB, you can’t store all that much. It would be nice to see a 256 MB or 512 MB version of this released, possibly with portable Firefox and Open Office preinstalled, for a complete portable security solution. The device truly isn’t for locked down company computers as it claims to be, as it does create a directory in the C: drive to store its preferences in during the installation process.

Final Thoughts

Buy a months supply of Tim Hortons Coffee with the money you’d spend on this. The time it would take for you to walk to your IT department to have them install the program (or for you to do it yourself on your personal computer), install Sygate Personal or Tiny Firewall instead and spent the $60 CAD a better way. That way there’s no USB key to loose.
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