Gatekeeper Pico review

The arguments for and against running internet security software on a Mac are well-rehearsed and, we suspect, likely to rumble on. In the mean time, Yoggie Security Systems has circumvented the debate by incorporating an entire security suite – including a mini-computer – into a device the size of a USB flash drive.

The Gatekeeper Pico looks like a chunky thumb drive, but it packs a lot of technology into its minuscule dimensions: a Linux computer with a 520MHz Intel CPU – with its kernel isolated on read-only memory – plus the aforementioned security software.

Installation is simple: double-click the installer on the included CD, restart your Mac when prompted, then plug in the dongle. Once booted, it downloads and installs the latest updates for the security suite.

Appearing in Network System Preferences as an additional Ethernet port, the Gatekeeper Pico uses a system-level driver to redirect network traffic before it reaches your Mac, filtering out any undesirable files or content.

We tested Gatekeeper Pico in three environments where laptop users might typically find themselves: an office, using a secured (WPA2) WiFi connection; a WiFi hotspot; and in a public building using a mobile broadband dongle provided by O2. Results were mixed. The office connection worked fine until we tried to access the laptop from another Mac using the IP address allocated by a DHCP router, at which point the network connection hung. Disabling the Pico enabled us to connect once more.

In the hotspot, the Pico prevented access to the proxy servers used by the WiFi provider, and advised us to disable its web content filtering – not exactly inspiring. As for the mobile broadband connection, that rendered the Gatekeeper entirely useless – though in all fairness, when we contacted them, Yoggie did offer to find a solution to this.

OUR VERDICT

Any device that promises ‘Pentagon-level protection in the palm of your hand’ had better be good, and the Gatekeeper Pico succeeds on many levels. While it uses few Mac OS X system resources, its helper applications certainly do make an impact on network traffic. However, it falls down in some critical areas where we’d have expected it to perform well.

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