A customisable system designed by Nortel gives remote workers a new way of obtaining secure network access using USB flash memory.

The firm's Secure Portable Office (SPO) allows users to establish a virtual private network (VPN) when the USB key is plugged into a Windows PC. Access privileges can be set according to user IP address or authentication strength; suspicious sessions can be automatically terminated leaving no trace on the user device.

When the SPO USB key is inserted, the user must be authenticated and a secure connection is made via Nortel's VPN Gateway. This will enable a desktop to appear showing the applications that the user in question is authorised to use. When they key is removed, applications and data (which are all encrypted on the PC and in transit) are completely removed.

As well as being useful for home and mobile workers, the SPO would be especially useful in disaster recovery and business continuity scenarios, says Nortel. Workers would be able to continue to access the corporate network, web-based applications, email and FTP.

Dr Zafar Chaudry, director of IT for Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Community-based midwives … will be using Nortel Secure Portable Office with hospital-provided laptops, 3G wireless data cards and Nortel Mobile Client Accelerator to securely access, review and update server-based medical records from patient homes.

“Our midwives must keep up with complex and changing procedures to ensure the very best patient care. Having a simple solution that allows them to do their jobs securely without having to learn complex log-in and operating procedures is a real plus.”