How to secure your computer with a USB stick used as a security

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July 8, 2011

The use of security tokens is a common feature for individuals and organizations wishing to secure sensitive data; and who may feel that the use of software-based authentication such as password and PIN are not sufficient. Security tokens are hardware-based authentication devices that are meant to complement the software-based security in authenticating user identities, mostly on private networks. The tokens are very useful in keeping off intruders, since they require two levels of independent identity verification from user. USB sticks are a good example of devices that can be used as hardware tokens.

The Benefits of Using USB Sticks

USB sticks are preferred in the making of security tokens for many reasons. Some of these reasons are discussed below.

Portability: USB sticks are very portable; hence, they are the most suitable devices for use as security tokens. Since these are security gadgets, there is need to have them as small as possible, and lightweight, to enable users to easily, carry them in their pockets, purses, or wallets.

Personalization: Since most people are fashion conscious, it is highly recommended that the gadget chosen be an item that easily be customized to take various shapes and colors, so that it may match with their mode of dressing, or make it less conspicuous when carried. The USB sticks adequately address this feature.

Low Cost: The cost of the USB sticks has significantly reduced in the past few years to become among the most affordable computer accessories. Therefore, the cost of manufacturing security tokens from USB sticks is also cheaper as compared to using other technologies.

Plug n Play: One of the most useful features of the USB technology is the ability to operate Plug n Play devices. This is very important since it eliminates the need for the manufacturers of the security tokens to have to ship the gadgets together with device drivers, which apart from being platform specific, are also known to cause major system conflict and compatibility issues.

Compatibility: USB technology is compatible with most hardware and equipment manufacturers. Therefore, manufacturers of security tokens are able to develop a one-fit- all solution; whereby their devices are able to work irrespective of which platform is in use.

Application of USB Stick Security Token

The USB stick security tokens are normally used as a second layer of security for desktops, private networks, and web portal. These tokens are provided to the members of an organization, with each member being given specific access privileges to the organization’s resources. In order to get access, a user is first required to plug in their security token to the USB port of their workstation. The system then prompts for a user password or PIN to be entered. If the entry is correct, the user ID is authenticated and is allowed to access the system. However, since each user has certain rights and privileges programmed into both the security token and the PIN based security software, entering a correct password only gives them access to the resources that they are authorized to access.

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