Microsoft is about to release a new feature pack for Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008 called Storage 1.0 (according to Microsoft a feature pack adds new features to an OS, as opposed to a Service pack which is primarily bug fixes and enhancements of existing features). Storage 1.0 will include new ways to work with Blu Ray discs and will support some new SmartCard types, both of which are nice features to have, but the point of real interest to mobile technology is the addition of what Microsoft calls it’s Active Storage Platform, in which portable devices like external hard drives and USB flash drives can be controlled and authenticated according to the IEEE 1667 standard.
What this does is solve a massive security hole that businesses and governments have been complaining about since M Systems introduced the first easily portable disc on key drives. Using the Active Service Platform, network administrators can make sure that only authenticated USB devices can be used on their computers, and the information on a USB device can be secured so that it can’t be accessed from an outside computer. This authentication can be done per partition, so a drive can hold both secure and non-secure data. For example, according to the IEEE 1667 standard, a drive can be configured using this standard so that company information can only be accessed from a company computer, while personal information can only be accessed from a personal computer, and not a company computer. The same concept could be used on any device that connects to a computer via USB and can store data, such as external HDs, phones, memory cards and MP3 players. In this way, a company can have far more control over what data is coming into and leaving their network and have a much better chance at keeping it’s data secure while still allowing it to be backed up effectively.
This technology is currently in a closed beta but should be generally available soon.