According to geeks, an unprotected Windows computer system connected to the Internet could be compromised within 10 minutes. In light of this, the need for computer security has expanded in the last few years. Today, it is just as necessary for home users to secure personal computers as it is for businesses to secure office computers. In order to gain security benefits like those many businesses possess, home network security often utilises the same models. The difference, however, has been that most home users and small businesses do not have the financial resources for top-end security equipment. This has led many home users to begin using security tools such as freeware firewalls and over-the-counter hardware firewall solutions.

Whereas a hardware firewall is a small metal box filled with port which you hook up to your computer network just as you would a new printer or other peripheral, a software firewall is no different to any other software application – except it can be a lot harder to manage. Because it’s not physically on your machine, a hardware firewall is less vulnerable than a software firewall. Software firewalls give you protection from hackers and other unwanted intrusions, and some top software firewall packages also include anti-spam, anti-virus, even anti-popup ad software and parental controls to manage what kinds of websites your children visit. Hardware firewalls are best suited to businesses and large networks; software firewalls are best suited for the home user who wants easy customisation. Yoggie’s products cross both boundaries…

A couple of years ago Yoggie Systems turned the security market on its head by producing the world’s first miniature mobile security device offering hassle-free ‘Pentagon Level Security’ at an economical price point. The company’s portfolio has grown and its product range now addresses the security needs of the consumer, SOHO and SMB users. The Gatekeeper Pro, Yoggie Security Systems flagship product, is essentially a miniature and robust computer, connectable via USB, offering 13 layers of protection. The Gatekeeper Pro eliminates the need for multiple security applications on an operating system that may conflict with each other and reduce computer performance.

The Gatekeeper Card Pro (£99.99) is another miniature dedicated security ‘computer’ that runs inside your computer. Whereas other Yoggie products connect to your computer via USB, the Gatekeeper Card Pro offers the same level of protection but in ExpressCard 34 format (34mm wide and rectangular in shape). So instead of using a USB device which could easily be lost or stolen, the Gatekeeper Card Pro resides inside your ExpressCard slot (and therefore hidden) for safekeeping. Similar to the company’s Firestick Pico and Pico Pro, the Gatekeeper Card Pro has its own processor, memory and Linux-based operating system. Yet with new and improved hardware architecture (CPU changed from Intel PXA to Freescale i.MX31; RAM changed from SDRAM to DDR), the Gatekeeper Card Pro offers better performance compared to existing Yoggie devices.

PCMCIA developed the ExpressCard standard to carry forward the benefits of ‘plug-in’ I/O cards to the next generation of personal computing devices. It’s a smaller and faster plug-in module solution that’s suitable for mobile and desktop systems. It also supports USB 2.0 and PCI Express applications and boasts lower system and card complexity. The Gatekeeper Card Pro is a compact ExpressCard 34 solution (there are also larger ExpressCard 54 products) that’s smaller that a regular PC Card, so you need to make sure that your laptop supports it. Having said that, if your laptop only has a PC Card slot, you can get an optional bridging ExpressCard-to-PC Card adapter.

There are 13 layers of security software in total including Adaptive Security Policy, Multi-Layer Security Agent, Layer-8 Security Engine, URL Categorisation and Filtering, Anti-Spam, Anti-Phishing, Anti-Spyware, Anti-Virus, Transparent E-mail Proxies (POP3, SMTP), Transparent Web Proxies (HTTP; FTP), Intrusion Detection/Prevention, VPN Client, and Stateful Inspection Firewall. Before any data is accepted for processing by your computer’s operating system, a low-level driver redirects it to the Gatekeeper Card Pro unit where a full security check is performed. Security breach attempts are identified and thwarted, and only safe, secure data is passed back to the computer.

Installing, configuring and managing the Gatekeeper Card Pro is a snap – you don’t need to be a networking nerd. You simply need to disable any software-based firewall or Internet protection suites you have running on your machine to avoid conflicts, insert the Gatekeeper Card Pro into your laptop’s ExpressCard slot, and then install the driver and software provided on the CD-ROM. The product then automatically downloads all relevant updates, which can take up to 15 minutes, but you can view the update progress via the Web-based Management Console. The Gatekeeper Card Pro is then ready to rock n’ roll.

The Gatekeeper Card Pro works like all Yoggie products by providing a physical barrier between your laptop and the Internet to ensure that threats never reach the laptop itself. All Internet traffic is routed through the device, so by removing the need to install software the device also improves laptop performance. Not only does it perform really well but it removes the headache of managing multiple software licenses and updates – ‘plug and forget’ technology means you can get on with your computing duties without having to constantly update your security applications or worry about whether you’re protected. As long as the Gatekeeper Card Pro is in your machine you’re safe.

The Web-based management console is simplicity itself. While it’s fair to say it’s not the prettiest utility I’ve ever seen, the console is easy to navigate and Yoggie has done a great job of keeping information and settings easy to understand. From the console you can see the Gatekeeper Card Pro’s status (is it working etc), view security logs and reports (2D and 3D graphics charts), in addition to configuring device settings, network settings and security policy. The reports are a geek’s dream come true and actually make for an interesting insight into the incoming and outgoing traffic of your laptop. Larger organisations using Yoggie’s Management Server will be pleased to know that you can change card’s modes of operation from Standalone to Corporate (Managed) Mode. Corporate Mode extends the IT manager’s ability to manage and enforce security on travelling laptops. In Standalone Mode the Gatekeeper is not connected to a Yoggie Management Server and functions independently. In this case, security policy is set by the user.

One really neat feature of the Gatekeeper Card Pro is the ability to prevent or disable connection to a network when the device is not connected to your laptop. Situations may arise when you need to disable Enforcement, for example if the Gatekeeper Card Pro has been damaged or lost. Once disabled, you are able to continue working with a network connection. However, this should be used with caution as all Gatekeeper Card Pro protection is disabled.

The Gatekeeper Card Pro provides powerful plug-and-play protection and removes the headache of hoping your Windows laptop doesn’t become compromised – especially when using wireless connections. If it’s peace of mind you want – just image not having to worry about managing multiple software subscriptions and deciphering illegible pop-up alerts – the Gatekeeper Card Pro is brilliant. The only downside is that it doesn’t protect workgroups. Yoggie’s unique offering addresses the ever growing need for top-notch security among technology users in a simple manner suitable for users at all levels.