GSA awards $25 billion IT services pact
- By Michelle Speir
- Jan 24, 1999
Pulsar's Secure PC integrates the 2in1 PC card from Voltaire Advanced Data Security Ltd., an Israeli firm, into a 450 MHz Intel Corp. Pentium II PC. The 2in1 PC card separates the PC's hard drive into two distinct virtual drives, each with its own boot sector and operating system. The PC also has separate hardware connections to the internal network and the Internet.
Pulsar officials said the 2in1 PC card has been submitted to the National Security Agency for certification at the EAL-2 level and that approval is expected soon.
The 2in1 PC card is an ISA expansion card that puts itself between the Enhanced IDE hard drive and the motherboard connection of the EIDE drive. Our review unit came installed and pre-configured with the 2in1 PC card. However, you can purchase this card separately and install it on any system. When we reconfigured the Pulsar PC, we found the 2in1 PC card management software to be intuitive and easy to use. Setup took us less than half an hour.
Once installed on your system, the card partitions your drive into two halves that are completely separate from one another. On each half, an operating system, such as Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 98, is installed. (This approach does not cause software licensing problems because operating systems are licensed per PC rather than per copy.)
Once the 2in1 PC card is set up, you designate which side you want to use to access your internal private network and which side you want to use to access the external public network. When the user is using the secure side of the PC, the background is a bright red with the word Secure clearly labeled in the middle of the screen. When the user is on the public side, the screen background is dark with Public labeled in yellow across the middle of the screen. To switch between secure and public modes, the user clicks an icon on the desktop, and the computer reboots to the appropriate mode. As the system reboots, all memory is wiped clean to maintain system security.
Sharing of files between the secure and public sides of the computer is accomplished by a common area. This common area is seen by both the secure side and public side operating systems. The information systems manager can set read/write privileges in the common area. To get the best protection, the administrator should set the common area to be read-only from the secure side. This will make sure no information is written to the common area from the secure side of the PC. The public side can be set to be both read and write.
Our test unit featured a 450 MHz Intel Corp. Pentium II processor in a midtower configuration with 64M of memory, a Creative Labs DVD-ROM drive, a Creative Labs AWE 64-bit sound card, a Diamond Stealth II video card with 8M of memory, and the 2in1 PC card.
We tested performance on Pulsar's Secure PC to see if there was any degradation due to the 2in1 card. We ran Business Applications Performance Corp.'s SYSmark/98 benchmark on both the secure and public sides of the PC, and scores were within 1 percent of each other. The overall performance rating of 173 was a little under par compared with similarly configured 450 MHz Pentium II systems we have tested in the past, but it was still adequate.
Overall, we found the Secure PC quite intriguing and a solution that should be considered by agencies that want to separate their internal networks from the Internet.