Steve Wozniak's Wheels of Zeus is beginning to roll, and enterprise data protection is one destination on the Apple Computer Inc. co-founder's mind.
Wozniak offered a peek into his vision for the company on Ziff Davis Media's Security Virtual Tradeshow, where he introduced "wOz Location-Based Encryption," an application that uses GPS tracking within a wireless hub to encrypt and decrypt sensitive data for large businesses.
Wheels of Zeus, which launched in 2001 with backing from three big-name venture capital firms, has developed a wireless platform to power a range of location-based monitoring and notification services, and Wozniak believes data protection is a natural extension of the company's business.
"Hundreds of thousands of notebooks and laptops are stolen or lost every year and, when that happens, sensitive corporate data is gone out the door," Wozniak said, citing FBI statistics that show that 98 percent of all stolen laptops are never recovered.
With wOz Location-Based Encryption, Wozniak said companies can guard against the unauthorized removal of data outside of safe zones by using GPS tracking tied to the proprietary wOzNet, which serves as a local wireless network.
The application involves the use of a dongle attached to the laptop that communicates wirelessly with a base station controlled by an enterprise IT department.
According to Wozniak's vision, the IT department sets specific "safe zones" where the laptop/device can be used, allowing an environment where the location of the laptop is known at all times and where access can be denied entirely if a safe zone is breached.
When the employee logs in, the device automatically requests valid zone information from the dongle. Once the preset zones are approved, the dongle regularly requests GPS positioning as a key to decrypting data to allow access. All the while, Wozniak said the internal base station is continually checking with the dongle for disconnect.
Once everything clears approval, the dongle decrypts the data based on the preset zone data. This, Wozniak explained, would automatically block an employee or a thief from picking up a laptop and moving out of a building without the IT department's approval.
He said the true value of the application kicks in when there is unauthorized removal of a device containing corporate secrets. "Remember, the dongle is constantly requesting GPS positioning, so once there's an out-of-zone reading, it triggers an automatic encryption of data, and alerts are sent to on-site security or to relevant authorities.
"The dongle can be programmed to delete data or shut down sections of the device. Once the computer is removed from the physical zone, the keys are lost or unavailable, and the hard disk is gibberish," Wozniak added.
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