Neutralize the threat of key logging with a password manager that allows for easy cut and paste.
Because paying bills online is so much faster and easier than writing a check, addressing an envelope, finding a stamp, and driving to the post office, I put my fears aside much as you cast your fate to the wind when boarding an amusement park roller coaster. Let's go for a ride and trust in the online wind.
There is a certain amount of pride I take in the courage I must possess when typing in my password. Could there be a key-logging program that has infected my computer in the past couple of days—or hours? While we have stopped most of the malware coming into our organization's email bins, my personal email seems to have a direct link to Nigeria, where I know every minister of every governmental department that oddly keeps trying to send me huge sums of money. One has to question the quality of life of someone (meaning me) who anticipates reading these messages for the entertainment value of their increasingly creative attempts to get inside your head.
Inner fears aside, there are real problems in protecting your personal information or your company's data on your PC, laptop, or flash drive. Have you ever wondered who is looking at your data when you take your laptop in for repair? Sure, there are yo-yos who want to protect their sexual fetishes, abnormal behavior, or marital infidelities, but I haven't time to worry about their out-of-bounds privacy concerns. What is truly important is protecting your passwords and avoiding the Sarah Palin type of email hacking incident in which someone gains access to your personal, financial, or corporate data—or Web site. (A friend had her Joomla site hacked and malicious code inserted, which meant she had to trash about 30 hours of work. Back up, back up!)
I've tried a few encryption programs, but they are usually awkward to use and a little scary should you forget your key or password and lose access to the data. There are password managers that can help keep your various passwords organized, but I have yet to see a solution as convenient as Encrypt Stick from ENC Security Systems of Vancouver, B.C.
ENC is an emerging company that since 2005 has been working to perfect Encrypt Stick, a software program that utilizes the hardware ID on a flash drive, along with your password, to create hidden vaults on your hard disk (or any other writable media, including the flash drive) that are encrypted with ENC's robust 512-bit polymorphic encryption algorithms that incorporate the flash drive's serial number.
ENC has just released V4.3 of Encrypt Stick. Users can download it and try it for free or purchase a slightly enhanced version for under $40 that grants them a license for a single flash drive and unlimited vaults on any number of computers or media. A vault is the Encrypt Stick storage area that you create to keep your hidden and encrypted data organized. The free version provides only two vaults, no lost drive recovery, and 20 MB of encrypted flash drive storage versus unlimited with the paid version. The lost flash drive recovery provides an avenue through the company's Web site to retrieve the information specific to your flash drive needed to launch Encrypt Stick and access your data.
With the release of V4.3, the software now has so many nifty features that describing them becomes almost tedious, and users are encouraged to download a free copy and try it to navigate through them all. One worth noting, however, is a built-in password manager that not only stores passwords but automatically generates strong passwords. The manager solves the key-logging threat by allowing you to copy and paste your password directly from the password manager over to the Web site you wish to access through the password program that conveniently stores the Web site's URL. It also features a virtual encrypted keyboard designed to confound key-logging.
The company suggests users carry their flash drive on their key chain and thus be able to access Encrypt Stick from any computer since it runs on the flash drive and leaves no footprint on any computer. This is handy for anyone traveling who needs to keep their passwords available to access servers or Web sites from the road. More than once I have printed out my passwords on a sheaf of paper before leaving for the airport on a business trip, and I often wondered what would happen if they fell into the wrong hands after I arrived at my hotel.
One of the impressive features of Encrypt Stick is that it's very fast, operating at 500MB/second, or about 10 times faster than 256 AES, so you aren't sitting around waiting for the encryption process to complete. Plus, you can actually edit encrypted documents without decrypting them, a huge convenience for frequently updated files. Should you need to leave your computer while Encrypt Stick is running, you can lock your vaults with a single keystroke.
The program also offers a file-wipe feature that permanently erases files from your hard disk, a utility that frequently sells as a standalone program for about the same cost as Encrypt Stick with its many features. And yes, file compression also is included among the programs utilities, so you can fit more data on your flash drive if you're using that as the storage medium beyond just hosting Encrypt Stick.
There are Windows and Mac versions of Encrypt Stick, useful for those who have recently purchased the increasingly popular iPad. Either XP or OSX 10.4 or later is required. You can download both versions onto a single flash drive and pay for only a single license.
If you've been waiting for someone to come up with an encryption solution that is convenient, is easy to use, and has an interface that even your CEO can understand and navigate, you may wish to give Encrypt Stick a try. More than 12,000 laptops are lost or stolen every week in the U.S., some from hotel rooms or taxicabs, and some are dropped from airport security conveyor belts. Saving your business users the embarrassment of losing their company data to strangers could make you a hero.