Remote access services provider iPass today opened its client-side connectivity software to allow users to reach the Internet via wireless and fixed networks that the company has not yet aggregated.
According to iPass, the move comes at the request of the company's corporate customers who want to allow their employees to connect to enterprise networks from the increasing number of free Wi-Fi hotspots and those that are not iPass partners. There's still an advantage to using an 'official' access point: there's no extra charge for connectivity, as there might be with a third-party hotspot.
Almost a year ago, iPass extended its remote access service to incorporate higher levels of security. Rather than simply providing connectivity to the Internet and, by VPN, access to corporate LANs, iPass allowed iPass Connect to operate as an extension of customers' own security policy maintenance systems. The application will grab and install IT department-sanction operating system patches, and ensure firewall, anti-virus and VPN software is up to date.
The updated version of iPass Connect continues to offer that functionality, but now will work even whatever hotspots the user connects through, including home networks. That, the company said, will allow corporate IT departments to sanction the use of home PCs safe in the knowledge that they can define and implement a suitable level of security provision even if the user fails to.
More likely, corporates will use the new system on company-owned notebooks. iPass Connect by-passes Windows' built-in Wi-Fi connectivity software, or third-party tools such as Intel's ProSet, which the chip-maker bundles with Centrino-branded notebooks. The software uses digital fingerprinting technology acquired last December when iPass bought Safe3W to ensure the connecting computer is the machine it claims to be. It's this that allows it to operate through 'unauthorised' hotspots. The code co-operates with whatever security provisions have been put in place on the access point, be it WEP or WPA.
iPass currently offers Windows, Mac OS X and PocketPC versions of iPass Connect. Only the Windows version supports the new authentication system, but the company pledged to upgrade the other versions in due course. A Linux release is in the pipeline, but it's unlikely to provide the new functionality from launch. ®
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