Steganos Security Suite 5.0 is one heavy-duty collection of privacy tools. Steganos, best known for its unique steganography tool, has assembled several encryption and privacy tools in its latest collection. And while this suite includes above-average privacy tools that remove all traces of browser cache files and history, shred personal files, and manage passwords, the real jewels of this package are its encrypted hard drive folders, its e-mail encryption, and, yes, the steganography tool itself. (Steganography, by the way, means "to hide in plain sight," and the tool encrypts data inside common graphics or sound files.) You'll probably never need most of these tools at home, but in a business environment where data protection is essential, the $50 Steganos Security Suite truly fits the bill.
Steganos Security Suite 5.0 is available as a CD or as a single, self-extracting executable archive of approximately 12MB available from the site. The suite installs easily onto the drive and directory of your choice and requires a reboot. Once Windows reloads, Steganos adds three modules to your system tray: Steganos Suite, Steganos Safe, and Steganos Password Manager (more on the latter two in a moment). For greater security, there's even an option to hide these Steganos icons from prying eyes. The overall combined system resources required for the Steganos suite is surprisingly small, averaging no more than that of a single instance of Internet Explorer.
You'll have to launch the main screen to access any of the suite's tools.
The basic interface for each tool is straightforward: pop-up configuration windows with various tabs. At present, however, loading the main suite itself is the only way to access the handy Steganos Shredder and the Internet Trace Destructor. In the future, we would prefer to have access to individual tools from the Windows Program Manager. The core of the Steganos Security Suite is its ability to encrypt files to suit your business needs. The Steganos Safe feature lets you save applications and data to one to four secure safe drives, each of which holds up to 1.2GB of encrypted data on the hard drive where the software resides. When a safe drive is open, its letter is added to your copy of Windows Explorer, allowing you to run applications, create directories and files, and edit documents as you would on an unencrypted drive. When it's closed, the safe drive vanishes from view. The only way to reopen the safe drive is to enter the appropriate password.
Steganos informs you in real time of how difficult it would be to decrypt the password that you're creating.
The Portable Safe feature encrypts a file or group of files inside what is called a prepackaging drive. You then burn this prepackaging drive onto a CD or DVD, using whatever other software you have for that purpose. The storage medium can then be transported at will, its contents securely encrypted. A password is needed to decrypt the disc. The E-mail Encryption tool uses a similar technique, turning a message and any number of attached files into a password-encrypted executable.
Unfortunately, the password manager is not as robust as others on the market. For example, DvaSoft's Personal Passworder allows you to store and launch Web sites that require a password, as well as input passwords specific to those sites--all at the click of a couple of buttons. Steganos's tool merely tracks and encrypts lists of passwords.
Other utilities in the suite include a personal file shredder, which leaves no traces of a deleted file, and an Internet trace destructor, which prevents people from tracking your Internet-surfing activities. The trace destructor works by letting you select from list of "computer traces" to be removed, including Internet files, Web browser cookies and history, and lists of recently accessed applications and documents.
The Trace Destructor tool lets you select the information that you want to remove: browser history file, cache, recent applications, recent documents, and so on.
The encryption within Steganos is gratifyingly thorough, employing the very strong 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and Counterpane's Blowfish (strong encryption algorithm), which Steganos uses in its File Manager feature to hide data within sound and image files. We like the way that Steganos tools tell you the relative level of effort that is required to break whatever password you're formulating. Alternatively, you can use the Steganos password-generation system to create secure passwords on the fly.
We encountered a few small problems while testing Steganos, however; specifically, we got two false positives from Norton AntiVirus on encrypted e-mail executables created in Windows 98, and Windows 2000/XP repeatedly tagged similar e-mail executables as potentially unsafe. Steganos blames Microsoft safety measures for the latter and suggests creating alternate encrypted files using CAB instead of EXE files. We found that the CAB-file e-mails avoided the false positives from both Norton AntiVirus and Microsoft on all versions of the Windows OS. Steganos Security Suite's built-in help file is actually its user manual, which displays on a separate screen and can be accessed from the suite's Overview screen or the Steganos entry in your Program Manager. We found the manual very thorough, logically organized, and well written. Unfortunately, however, its lack of a searchable index is a bit of a problem, especially given the number of tools in the suite. An extensive online multilingual FAQ walks users through a range of specific issues.
The excellent help system unfortunately doesn't include a subject index.
The help manual and FAQ should resolve most potential problems. If they do not, registered users can e-mail technical support. We received accurate responses to our messages within 72 hours. However, the company does not offer telephone technical support. Also, Steganos makes it very clear that the company cannot help out with missing or forgotten passwords.