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April 16, 2009

NHS gets safer USB sticks

Can BlockMaster tech reduce data loss?

By Steve Evans

The NHS has signed an exclusive two-year contract with security vendor BlockMaster who will distribute over 100,000 SafeSticks to hospitals throughout the UK.

According to BlockMaster, SafeStick is a secure USB drive that features automatic hardware encryption of all stored data and mandatory password protection.

Hospitals such as the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, the George Elliot NHS Hospital Trust in Warwickshire and Aintree University Hospital NHS Trust are using the new devices to improve data protection.

The West Suffolk Hospital is also using BlockMaster’s management suite, SafeConsole, to monitor activity on USB sticks. SafeConsole offers remote password recovery, customised password policy, audit for compliance, portable authentication tokens and productivity tools.

Robert Howorth, senior technical architect at West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, said: “We were faced with the constant challenge of keeping our data safe, but also ensuring staff can work remotely to increase efficiencies. The security of patient data is of paramount importance to us, so we needed a device that could provide complete protection against theft or loss. We also wanted the peace of mind that devices could be centrally managed, locking down and wiping data should a device become compromised.”

The devices also feature a lockdown function, which can disable the USB stick if there is no user activity for a configurable period of time.

“The number of unsecure USB sticks lost each year is a problem we cannot sweep under the carpet. We need to be proactive with USB security and not wait for a breach to happen until we think about it,” Daniel Östner, CEO at BlockMaster, said. “It’s fantastic news to see that the NHS is leading the way with USB security. The introduction of best-practice and diligence by organisations will protect sensitive data on portable devices and prevent embarrassing, as well as costly data breaches.”

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The NHS has been actively improving its security recently. Tower Hamlets Primary Care Trust and the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust both signed deals with Imprivata to use its single sign-on technology, OneSign. Over 50 NHS Trusts are now using Imprivata’s platform.

Other players in the secure USB field are Kanguru and IronKey.

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