We reviewed a previous version of Steganos Security Suite here and were impressed with the product’s ease of use and ability to hide and encrypt your files and e-mails. This latest version adds a few new features to the mix, but have they come at the expense of usability and stability?
First, a brief description of the product is in order. Steganos Security Suite is a collection of utilities that have been designed to make sure that your files, e-mails and Internet transactions remain safe from prying eyes. Various scenarios are described in the accompanying manual, all of them potentially exceedingly harmful to your privacy or business security. For example, the loss of a laptop from a train, the theft of a CD containing confidential company data, the snooping of colleagues or other people with access to your PC, the tracking of your Internet browsing habits, government spying, the ease with which standard e-mails can be read, and so on.
All are valid points, and while there are other software packages on the market that claim to counter one or more of these threats, Steganos attempts to handle the lot of them. First, you have the option of creating an encrypted hard drive – up to four of them, in fact – in which you can store all your files. The drives can be ‘opened’ using a password or passphrase of your choice, after which they are assigned a drive letter and can be accessed in the normal way. We didn’t notice any reduction in read/write speed while using the ‘safe’ drives, and they seem to be able to withstand write errors well too. If you need to secure your data, a quick click on the taskbar icon will close the safe and prevent anyone accessing your private data.
Conveniently, there’s now the option of creating a ‘portable’ safe. This works in the same way as the standard safe, but it is created on a writeable CD or DVD disc, so you can carry your data around with you without worrying that anyone could access it if it were lost or stolen.
Moving onto e-mail, this new version of the suite contains a plug-in for Outlook 2000/2002/XP, so you can encrypt your e-mails with one button, although users of other e-mail clients will have to do things the long way, by attaching the encrypted document. Attachments can be sent as executable files, which could cause problems with some firewalls and content filtering software, so in this version there’s also the option of sending files in CAB format, which is the format used by Microsoft to store installation files. This is a good choice and makes the e-mail encryption more practical.
Then there’s the cunning stuff. Quite apart from the Internet Trace Destructor (now updated for Windows XP) which aims to remove all traces of your private Web browsing habits and personal details, there are privacy tools for XP in general, to prevent the transfer of system information to Microsoft. The password manager, which encrypts all your passwords so that you don’t forget any of them, now has options for managing the way in which passwords are stored. And there’s a US Government-approved method of over-writing files so that they can’t be retrieved once deleted.
Our favourite tool, however, is still the component that gives the suite its name; the steganography tool which conceals data inside a ‘carrier’ file such as an image or audio file. The carrier file can still be viewed or played, so nobody will be any the wiser. And even if they do discover the hidden data, they still won’t be able to extract it without the encryption password. This is the best form of privacy; encryption and concealment. If you have something to hide, you need this tool.
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