High-Security Data Protection on the Cheap

By Wayne Kawamoto | Posted November 16, 2005

Short of locking your PC in a high-security vault, there may be no better way to protect your data than with Steganos Security Suite 2006 (SSS). Key features in this new suite include high-level encryption capabilities, spyware protection, a method to track stolen notebook PCs, and a virtual shredder that thoroughly disposes of critical documents and data.

On the other hand, if you're looking for anti-virus and ad-blocking capabilities or a software firewall, you'll have to look elsewhere (Steganos does offer an Internet Security suite that serves as an able companion to its standard Security Suite). In execution, SSS dominates a specific security niche — the thorough protection of data.

What's New for 2006
Steganos Security Suite 2006 now employs real-time, 256-bit AES encryption, an upgrade from the 128-bit AES encryption found in its predecessor, Security Suite 7. You can now create unlimited encrypted "safes" to store data, compared to only four in the prior version, and you can use several new methods to unlock safes that employ USB sticks or ActiveSync-capable mobile phones.

For 2006, Security Suite includes Steganos AntiSpyware, which detects and destroys some 10,000 adware and spyware programs. It's a strong addition to the suite that can stop malicious programs that monitor surfing habits and record keystrokes to obtain passwords and account information. The program comes with a year's worth of updates to keep the database current and automatically downloads new signatures.

Another key addition is Steganos AntiTheft, which tracks stolen PCs or notebooks. When a PC is missing, you can log onto a Steganos Web site that tracks the IP addresses that the device connects with. With this information, authorities may be able to identify the owner of the Internet connection and ultimately track down the PC.

Safe Deposit Boxes
The core of the suite, Steganos Safe 8, secures hard drive data by encrypting it with secure 256-bit AES encryption. Beyond hard drives, the program writes to CD and DVD-ROM discs, which allows you to carry and use data anywhere without installing the software — all you need is the password. The end result: thieves can't access your data. The program can also turn a USB stick into a re-writable mobile safe that stores data in encrypted form. Data may be transferred from a USB stick to PCs with its encryption intact.

A major convenience in Steganos 2006 is that you can apply encryption without needing to enter passwords by instead relying on USB sticks, memory cards, ActiveSync-capable mobile phones or even digital cameras. Simply attach the external device and Steganos automatically decrypts the data. And when you leave your desk, the program can automatically close and open a safe by sensing an ActiveSync-capable Bluetooth smartphone — a convenient way to take breaks.

For additional security, the innovative Steganography program hides sensitive data in image and music files using Stegano's DyCes (Dynamic Cell Spreading) algorithm. With this, an innocent vacation photo or music file can surreptitiously carry sensitive data. In use, encryption doesn't significantly slow down general computing and you'll barely notice it on a fast PC.

Shredding and More
To protect sensitive data that you need to toss, Steganos Shredder offers a deep cleaning function that prevents technicians from resurrecting discarded files. The program consists of two components: File Shredder, which destroys files and folders, and Free Space Shredder, which destroys the remains of previously deleted files.

The program lets you select between three shredding procedures: 1) Simple overwrite; 2) DoD 5220.22-M/NISPOM 8-306, used by the US Department of Defense; or 3) The Gutmann method, which overwrites data some 35 times in accordance with a specific procedure. In use, the Gutmann method is thorough but quite time consuming.

Another powerful feature destroys "traces" — Web information such as cookies, your browser history, Media Player music lists, search requests, temporary files and more. The program destroys some 200 types of traces, up from the 150 in the prior version.

The Password Manager encrypts all passwords and stores them in an encrypted list that you can conveniently access with a single password. If you like, the program can automatically enter passwords into forms and programs for you. And when your creativity runs low, the password generator can create passwords for you. You simply designate the number of characters and the Password Manager creates a password of random values and saves it.

To protect e-mail, there's e-mail encryption and de-encryption that can foil "sniffers" that try to intercept data. With just a few clicks you can create self-decrypting e-mails, which also scramble attachments. Beyond a password, a recipient does not need a copy of Steganos or any other program to access the message.

The suite is simple to download and install, and it offers good help files that explain the suite's many features. Steganos Security Suite is also intuitive and easy to use, offering clear menus for setting up options. However, a step-by-step wizard would help explain the suite's many options while walking novices through the configuration process.

The Bottom Line
Any company or individual with intellectual property to protect will do well to consider Steganos Security Suite 2006. And with the addition of 256-bit AES encryption, AntiSpyware, and AntiTheft, the 2006 version is definitely worth the upgrade to those who currently use Security Suite 7 or an older Steganos release.

You download Steganos Security Suite 2006 as a 30-day trial release or purchase it directly from Steganos for $69.95. An upgrade license from Steganos Security Suite 7 to Steganos 2006 costs $39.95. The company also offers free software updates within a generation and spyware database updates for one year.

Pros: Thorough security program that encrypts and protects data; strong e-mail and file shredding capabilities; high security 256-bit AES encryption; unique encrypt, compress and hide capabilities for sensitive data; inexpensive

Cons: Program could use a wizard to better explain options to novices and help them configure the software; requires large files for storing your encrypted data

Adapted from winplanet.com.

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