PriyPriyanka Joshi | Business Standard | Singapore May 21, 2012, 00:44 IST
It is very easy to lose sensitive data without even realising it—from a software developer sneaking out gigabytes of valuable source code on his iPod to an executive's wireless-enabled laptop being sniffed at the local coffee shop, loss of data can be critical to executives or businesses. The amount of data on devices (mobile, laptop, etc) and on web accounts (emails, social networking profiles, etc) needs a protective layer of security. Here’s how to stay on guard:
Singapore-based security firm Rune has launched Deadbolt that comes either as a USB drive or a portable hard disk drive and protects your email and messages from unwanted attention.
Deadbolt can be attached to your computer and requires the user to enter a numeric password to unlock it. Once unlocked, it runs the Deadbolt application and a toolbar appears on the screen. You need to select text from any file or folder on the PC in order to encrypt it (it can even encrypt an entire file). The encrypted text cannot be read unless the recipient possesses the key to decrypt it. Thus, when you copy and paste the encrypted text into your email, or even in a Facebook post to the recipients, only those who have a valid key can decipher the text.
Rune designed Deadbolt using both standards-based OpenPGP and an optional, one-time pad that generates unbreakable and random Vernam cipher for the text. The Vernam cipher, explains Rune, is unbreakable because it produces completely random cipher-text that locks away data in a way that even supercomputers can't break. The company maintains that the solution is not meant for mass users but for top executives, banking professionals or high net worth individuals who carry sensitive data.
If you are a small enterprise, or just a keen user, try Deadbolt Lite, available for download on Rune’s website for a fee of $10. While you won't get the Vernam cipher (considered very secure) with this, you will still get the OpenPGP encryption to send securely your emails and messages to recipients. Deadbolt is not a cheap answer to your security woes—the portable HDD version costs around $2,000 and can be bought from select resellers only.
Verbatim’s Secure ‘n’ Go USB
This one is for mass users (comes in 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB models) who prefer carrying their files with them, yet fear for their security. When you first plug in the device, it takes a while for it to come to life, but the delay is most probably because of slow initial detection speeds of secured devices, compared to the speed of standard USB sticks with which we’re more used to.
The first time requires users to set up by entering a password for the data. It then asks to log in using the new password. Therafter, the process gets completed.
Good thing is this USB flash drive comes with a generous five-year warranty and email support. The device is fully-encrypted and hence cannot be accessed without using the log-in application. Once logged in, the device mounts the storage area as a separate drive. To access this drive, you have to go back to My Computer and select the F drive. However, it would have been preferable to see the storage area automatically launch a login. Once logged in, you stay in the secure area till you exit (using the system tray icon) or remove the drive. While reviewing, we did not detect any files the device was logged out of. Once logged in, the second test successfully located the deleted files (in exactly the same way as any other storage device).
The device costs just Rs 1,392 on sites like Amazon.com, if you are looking for a no-frills USB 2.0 drive with an added layer of data encryption available to secure data.
Integral Crypto Drive
The Integral Crypto drive offers military-level security via AES 256-bit hardware encryption. This is a forced mandatory encryption for all files ensuring secrecy for everything that’s on the drive. This is most important when trying to secure “data in transit”.
As no software needs to be installed on the host computer, there is hence a zero footprint of this device on the PC. Users are required to create passwords, consisting of 8-16 characters that need to be a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. Mandatory encryption ensures the user cannot save unprotected files to the Crypto Drive unless the password has been set up before use. While it works on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, it’s a shame that it isn’t compatible with Mac devices. The Crypto Drive also has a “brute-force password-attack protection”. This means all data will get automatically erased after six failed attempts and the drive will be reset.
Physically, the Crypto Drive is protected against knocks, drops, break-ins and water, due to its epoxy resin and steel inner case. The rubberised silicone outer casing provides a final layer of protection. Available online on sites such as Amazon.com, Integral Crypto comes in 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB models. The 8GB model we tested costs Rs 3,450.