Utimaco SafeGuard RemovableMedia 1.10

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Utimaco  SafeGuard RemovableMedia 1.10

Pros

  • AES, 256-bit encryption, easy to use, can encrypt re-writable CDs and DVDs

Cons

  • Nothing notable

Bottom Line

All up, this is a user-friendly utility for businesses wishing to implement stricter security for portable data devices.

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It's hard to guard against the loss of USB keys or external hard drives in the workplace, but good encryption means that even if a user does lose a removable drive with valuable data on it, then that data won't be readable.

Utimaco's SafeGuard RemovableMedia 1.10 is a utility that can encrypt not only USB keys and external hard drives, but also re-writable CDs and DVDs (in UDF format). It uses the AES (advanced encryption standard) algorithm and it enforces a 256-bit key length to encrypt files, which is said to be the same encryption that the US government uses for its 'top secret' classified files. Of course, this will only work if the password isn't easy to guess, nor a common word (and a short one at that) that can be found by using a 'brute force' attack.

Once installed, SafeGuard will run in the background and will detect any removable drives that are plugged in. If a removable device is detected, SafeGuard will pop up and give the user the option to read the data on the device, and also to encrypt it. If the user doesn't tell SafeGuard to 'allow access to plain files', then the removable device in question won't be readable. Indeed, SafeGuard won't allow the data on any removable devices to be read by default, mainly as a precaution against unwanted data entering a company's PCs and network.

For encrypting data, SafeGuard gives offers a couple of options. Users can elect to encrypt only new files that will be added to the removable device, or they can also encrypt the existing data that's on the device. An encryption key has to be assigned to the removable device, and this can either be a freshly created key, or a previously created one that users can select from a drop-down list. These keys are part of a 'keyring' and if a device is installed that requires a key that's not present on the 'keyring', then its data won't be readable. SafeGuard gives the user the option of 'importing' the missing key; in other words, it lets the user manually type in the password.

Because SafeGuard runs in the background, any encryption and decryption processes that are undertaken remain transparent to the user. The only time the user needs to worry about SafeGuard is when a removable device is plugged in, so that the right encryption key can be selected.

The first time a removeable device is encrypted, SafeGuard places a copy of SGPortable on it. Users who don't have SafeGuard installed to decrypt the data, can use SGPortable instead. This makes it very simple for encrypted data to be shared between PCs, as long as the encryption keys for the data are known, too.

The time it takes to encrypt data will vary depending on the amount of data, the type of data, the type of media and the speed of the CPU. For example, 194MB worth of files (a mixture of office documents, MP3s and program files) on a USB stick took 5min to encrypt on a notebook with a Pentium M 1.73GHz CPU. One thing SafeGuard can't do, is encrypt the files on an iPod. We tried to do this and ended up having to restore it. If a company's policy dictates that all removable devices must use encryption, then this will quickly stamp out unauthorised iPod use at work. For large networks, SafeGuard is supplied with administrative templates that can be enforced through group policy settings.

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