Two-Factor Authentication with USB Drives
USB flash drives are on their best way to become major security boosters for laptops and computers, as new generation software solutions can transform a USB flash drive into a USB security lock.
What if a laptop, just like a car, couldn’t run without a USB memory key?
A new group of software utilities has emerged that purports to create just such a USB key lock out of a common USB flash drive. Used together with password protection, this gets you up on something almost in the league of industrial strength security levels that also banks use for their ATM cards.
So let's go look into these USB security keys!
So imagine: yet another government or big business employee looses yet another laptop. But rather than placing the personal data of hundreds or thousands of customers/citizens at risk, the laptop is unusable without the USB key lock, which the employee still has on a keychain.
How a USB security key works
It’s quite simple. The software renders your computer essentially inoperable if the designated USB security key is not plugged into a USB port. Once the program is installed and configured, it’s a simple matter of inserting the USB key lock into the computer for it to work. Remove the USB security key whenever you step away from the computer. When you return, plug it back in, and normal computer function resumes.
You can even use the same USB security key to protect multiple laptops/computers.
The benefits of a USB security key
Access control to the laptop or computer is the primary benefit of the USB key lock, just like a key lock is for a car. Fittingly, most USB flash drives will fit on a keychain. As a result, if a laptop gets stolen, the USB security key is likely to still be in the owner’s pocket with the rest of his or her normal keys.
But the USB security key, like an USB drive, can offer additional benefits too, like storage space for easy file transfer. Or you can also run an entire portable and very powerful operating system such as e.g Knoppix off the USB drive when using an untrusted computer or network surrounding. Since the USB security key is kept on a keychain, it’s always conveniently available and can be carried around easily and always available to the user.
Does a USB security key provide perfect security?
As in the real world, so it is on the internet - "perfect security" doesn’t really exist. However, this USB key lock is a huge step in the right direction. You’ll want to keep up all your other standard security procedures, such as strong passwords and encryption. It’s always a good idea to keep multiple security protocols to protect yourself. Nevertheless, a USB security key can add another powerful layer of security protection.
Know also as 'two-factor authentication', and by using a combination of a USB security key with a strong password or PIN, you reach a new dimension of industrial strength security:
Two-factor authentication is used every time a bank customer visits the local ATM machine. One authentication factor is the physical ATM card that the customer inserts into the ATM machine. The second factor is the PIN-key the customer enters. Both of these are needed in order for authentication to take place, and this provides an additional dimension of security.