THE MAGAZINE

Worth a Look: Encrypt-Stick

By John Wagley

A growing number of professionals, by law, are going to be required to protect information carried on portable storage devices, such as flash drives. The past few years have seen a number of secure USB stick offerings that can address that need. One of the newest offerings is Encrypt-Stick, from Canada-based ENC Security Systems.

Consisting of software that can be downloaded onto a flash drive, the product serves as both an encrypted flash drive and an encryption system. Users can create numerous secure vaults on their computer. The flash drive also acts as a key to the computer’s secure files; the USB must be inserted, and a password entered, before vaults can be accessed. Encrypt-Stick uses extremely strong encryption and includes a password manager, among other features.

The software is simple to download. One secure vault is automatically generated on the flash drive. Creating additional vaults, 512 bits in size, requires clicking on a drop-down menu, naming the new folder, and selecting its destination. Vaults can’t be seen on a computer unless the USB is inserted. Encrypting files on a computer can bring added peace of mind if a machine is shared or if, for instance, it needs repairs.

Encrypting and decrypting files involves an easy drag-and-drop process. After encrypting a file, users are asked if they would like to securely delete the original, which can help with organization and the elimination of duplicates.

Encrypt-Stick also includes a password management application. Password managers, aside from their convenience, can help thwart a surprisingly common problem: threats from computer key loggers and spyware.

Encrypt-Stick’s manager is no-frills—simple and intuitive. At least one of its features could make it less secure than some other manager programs, however. Users must copy passwords to a computer clip board before pasting them in a Web input form.

Such a method would seem to present an opportunity for some sophisticated data-stealing programs. Other password management programs keep the data self-contained and encrypted until it is entered into a site. Another potentially useful measure against spyware could be a virtual keyboard, in which characters are inputted by mouse clicks.

The product uses government-approved Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and 512-bit polymorphic encryption. The polymorphic code has never been hacked, according to Encrypt-Stick, and it is at least eight times stronger than AES.

The current version is Windows-compatible. Mac and Linux versions are said to be coming in the near future.

At about $40, Encrypt-Stick’s price is reasonable compared to some other secure USB products. The cost also includes lifetime software updates. If a flash drive is lost, customers can purchase a new license and use the Encrypt-Stick Instant Online Recovery System to unlock previously encrypted files.

The software lacks some of the features of other secure flash drives. But for ease of use, strong security, and a reasonable price, Encrypt-Stick could be worth a look.

Pros. Strong encryption. Encryption on the flash drive and elsewhere. Onboard password manager. Relatively simple product recovery. Good pricing.

Cons. No-frills password manager. Fewer security features than some other secure flash drives.

Where to get it. The software and license are available online for about $40. A flash drive can be provided for a slightly higher overall cost.

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