GateKeeper — first impressions

keychain-dongleEarly this year, I backed the GateKeeper — a small dongle that locks and unlocks my PC based on proximity. The general idea is that you clip a small bluetooth sender to your belt, and a dongle on your PC checks the signal strength to determine how close you are to it.

By now, the small black box has arrived, and I’ve done a bit of testing with it. The good news: It works.

The bad? It’s a bit fiddly. The USB dongle is, at least in my opinion, at the same time way too big and way too fragile looking. The dongle that you’re supposed to take with you is also not as tiny as hoped, although small enough. But my main gripe is with the usability.

Of course, the signal strength of a small bluetooth emitter will vary. If there are keys in the path between sender and receiver (likely, if you add it to your keychain), if you move, if other signals interfere — then you may suddenly find your computer locking up in the middle of your work. You can adjust the sensitivity, but then you may find that you can walk a bit too far for your liking before your computer gets locked.

usb-dongleAlso, the Android app appears to be still in quite a beta state, I didn’t find it very usable.

But this is just my first day of testing, and apart from that, things work quite nicely: My system locks when I leave it, and it unlocks when I come back, although sometimes with a slight delay. At the moment, I think it’s more of a convenience thing than a real security tool. If, for example, the USB dongle gets removed, or the software tool gets stopped, your computer won’t lock or unlock automatically anymore. And it does take a small leap of faith to just walk away from ones workstation, assuming/hoping that it’ll lock.

At roughly 50$, it sits exactly at that awkward price point where it is slightly too expensive for simple gimmickry while it is not that a security boon to those who are willing to spend that money (meaning: Big Companies).

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