3Com Corp. this week announced a new version of its embedded firewall for laptop and notebook PCs, and enhanced its existing desktop and server versions with virtual private network (VPN) support.

Originally unveiled in February, 3Com's Embedded Firewall Solution is a 10/100 Ethernet network interface card with a built-in firewall, based on Secure Computing Corp. firewall software.

3Com contends that running the firewall in hardware on the NIC is more secure than using software on the PC itself, because it resists tampering by the end user and is not subject to PC operating system vulnerabilities. The firewalls can also be centrally managed, via the Embedded Firewall Policy Server.

The new 3Com Firewall PC Card is intended for mobile computers, joining the existing desktop and server PCI Card versions. All the cards now work on PCs used by remote users connecting to the corporate network via broadband VPN links. The cards can also now detect whether the user is connecting from inside or outside the corporate network perimeter, and apply the appropriate security policy accordingly. In that fashion, enterprises can more easily apply security policies to all users, even those connecting from the road on laptops.

3Com's Policy Server software allows administrators to monitor, update and configure firewalls on remote laptops and notebooks via a VPN connection. In the event of a security breach, administrators can also disable any laptop connecting via the 3Com Firewall PC Card.

The Firewall PC Card will be available this month at prices starting at $219, or $3,999 for a pack of 20 cards. Desktop versions cost $179 in single quantities while the server version costs $329.