Steganos Security Suite 6 review
A good suite of applications for securing your data, but the large price increase makes this outing less attractive than the previous version.
Review Date: 18 Dec 2003
Reviewed By: Niall Magennis
Price when reviewed: Download, £34 (£40 inc VAT); boxed, £42 (£50 inc VAT); Upgrade £25 (£30 inc VAT)
If you find yourself constantly looking over your digital shoulder, Steganos' latest product is aimed at you. Security Suite is a set of tools designed for home use, which allows you to encrypt files and email messages, surf the Web anonymously and even shred deleted files to make sure that they can't be recovered. It's ideal for the amateur spy or anyone who doesn't want others nosing through their private files or emails.
Perhaps the most useful feature is the Steganos Safe. This allows you to create a secure area on your hard disk that appears to Windows as if it were a standalone hard disk. You can use up to four safes at once, each up to 32GB in size, which is a significant increase from the previous version's rather small limit of 1.2GB.
Naturally, a safe isn't very safe if anyone can open it, so you're able to assign a password to each one. On the surface, there appears to be a clever wizard to help you create secure passwords. As you enter your password, a line below the password window tells you how secure it is. A short password will be described as 'cannot be cracked without specialised software', whereas a longer one will be optimistically described as 'cannot be cracked by secret services'. The problem is that Steganos derives these descriptions merely from the length of the password, not from the combination of characters within it. However, at least in this latest version Security Suite does match words against a database of commonly used insecure passwords, and will warn you of ones that could be easily broken - such as Qwerty.
Another useful feature is the way that you can create what Steganos calls Portable Safes. These are encrypted archives that can be exported to removable media such as CDs or DVDs. The advantage of Steganos' system over some of its competitors is that you don't need to have a copy of the software loaded on the machine you're using to be able to open the files.
Email encryption is also provided as part of the package. However, the Steganos email encryption system doesn't really integrate into an email client. Instead, you have to type your email directly into the encryption application and add any files you want to attach to the message. When you've finished, the software will create either an executable or a CAB file that you then attach to a message in your chosen email client. Naturally, the advantage of this system is that the person who's receiving the file doesn't need any special software installed on their PC to open the encrypted message. But while this is fine for sending the odd encrypted message, it's hardly ideal for passing lots of them back and forth. We can't help feeling that a public key/private key system would be much better in such circumstances.
If you're wondering where Steganos got its name, take a look at the File Manager application. This allows you to hide your sensitive files in plain view. The process is known as steganography, hence the company's name. This implementation uses the highly praised blowfish encryption algorithm (see www.schneier.com/blowfish.html for details), which encrypts sensitive data, then hides it inside BMP or WAV files - which is clever, but probably not all that useful for ordinary tasks. What is useful for everyday functions, however, is the Password Manager, which allows you to store all your passwords and PINs in one encrypted file that can be accessed using a single password.
Rounding off the bundle are Internet Trace Destructor and Steganos Shredder. Trace Destructor promises to wipe all traces of your surfing activity from your computer. It deletes such items as the cache and cookie files for commonly used web browsers, and also removes traces that may be left in Winamp or RealPlayer. Shredder, on the other hand, makes sure that deleted files really are deleted, rather than hanging around on your hard disk in pieces that can be recovered by undelete applications. You can even choose the Gutmann Method, which overwrites unwanted data 35 times to make sure it can't be recovered.
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