Happy Meal security pack

CryptoCard brings two-factor authentication to SMBs

For strong security, typical user passwords stink, but are cheap. Two-factor authentication methods -  in which a device provides a one-time password checked by the security system's server before allowing access - have long been the favorite of firms with deep pockets. Now CryptoCard is offering an affordable two-factor authentication Starter Kit for SMBs.

The kit, which the company affectionately calls a “Happy Meal,” includes five CryptoCard server software user licenses, client-side tokens and specialized client software for $499. CryptoCard works with resellers and sells the kit on its Web site.

Two-factor authentication uses a device of some type to generate a one-time-only password using a secret algorithm. This unique password must be verified on the host end by an authentication database that grants access.

CryptoCard devices include smart cards, USB dongles, keychain fobs and calculator-type tokens. There's a Happy Meal for each token type and a sampler kit with one of every type. Smart cards fit into readers that generate the password for you automatically, as do the USB dongles. When activated, keychain fobs display the password, which the user must then type in. 

Generally, small businesses favor the keychain token because people rarely lose their keys; big companies like smart cards that do double-duty as door access security keys.

The server side of CryptoCard runs on Windows 2000 and 2003 Server, as well as Red Hat Linux and Macintosh OS/X servers. You'll need to learn about Remote Authentication Dial In User Service (RADIUS) or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) server software to support two-factor authentication. Even low-end routers now support these services, but few small companies take the time to learn how to implement this added layer of security.

Cynical readers might think the CryptoCard Starter Kit is the nose of the camel sneaking into the customer tent for a ton of consulting time, but that's not the case.

Pegasus Technologies, an 11-person firm just outside Philadelphia, signed on early as a CryptoCard reseller. "Most starter kit users install the software themselves by starting the install and clicking Next, Next, Next until it's done,” says Matthew Tucker, vice president of sales for Pegasus.

Tucker says maximum consulting time for a Happy Meal installation has been three hours for any of Pegasus' customers. You can find out for yourself by downloading demonstration software from CryptoCard.

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