Security

SolutionBase: Stealth Storage can provide transparent encryption of local data

Take a look at the pros and cons of SoftCab's Stealth Storage software for encrypting local data on a client system.


Softcab has created a product called Stealth Storage that is designed to encrypt the contents of a hard drive to provide privacy against snoopers, protection of data on a lost laptop, and/or increased security in a highly sensitive environment. This niche market is very crowded with products such as Invisible Secrets, Advanced Encryption Package 2004, and Steganos Security Suite 6. Thus, a good encryption product needs to be truly unique and of good quality, and of course, affordable. I will provide an overview of Stealth Storage, its key features, its cost, as well as an opinion on the quality and usability of the product.

What is it?
Stealth Storage is designed to encrypt all data including e-mails, word processing documents, audio and video files, and any other sensitive files that are stored on the local hard drive. Capable of using such popular ciphers as IDEA, CAST, 3Way, Blowfish, Rijndael, and Twofish, Stealth Storage provides a reasonably strong means to encrypt various files and folders. Designed to be invisible to the end user (if configured that way), it is possible for users to encrypt pretty much everything with no outward indication that they are actually performing any encryption.

How does it work?
Once the installation is complete, Stealth Storage mounts an additional "disk" to your operating system. This disk looks just like any other partition (e.g., C:\, D:\, E:\, etc). Essentially your system thinks you have an additional disk. After installation, you can create multiple encrypted "disks," each with different passwords and encryption mechanisms, if you’d like. Then you simply choose what you wish to "encrypt" by entering your previously selected password in your selected window, and then whatever you chose is automatically encrypted. Files and folders that were encrypted will remain that way until you choose to decrypt them. You also have the ability to mount/dismount drives and use various configuration levels.

Benefits
As part of my analysis, I've listed what I feel are the major benefits or highlights of Stealth Storage:
  • Easy to install and configure – Three clicks is all it took to install this program. It does require a reboot and some configuration afterward, but it's not very complicated.
  • Easy to uninstall – Just as easily as I installed it, I was able to uninstall it very quickly. Files that I had encrypted with the program seemed to work fine after I uninstalled the program.
  • Invisible to the user – If you choose, you can make the encryption activity transparent to the user by tweaking the configuration. This feature has obvious benefits. By making the encryption virtually invisible, it will be difficult for anyone to even know that items are being encrypted. This is a key selling point for this product and is the most highly touted feature on the product's Web site.
  • Reasonably helpful sales group – After sending an e-mail to the SoftCab product line managers and mentioning that I was writing an article, I was able to get a response and they were helpful; however, on later inquiries, I received no response.

Drawbacks
As with any product, there are always a few negatives, and since the purpose of this article is to provide a detailed review of the product, I must include some of these drawbacks here:
  • Web site does not have much information available – I couldn’t find any white papers or detailed technical descriptions of the product on the Web site. Short of the marketing blurb on the product page, there weren't many details available. I also noticed a typo on the Web page for this product. Now I realize that a spelling error is probably not a good indication of the quality or functionality of the product itself, but I think it can be an indicator of the professionalism of the company. In today’s marketplace, typos on corporate Web sites are unacceptable and can be an indicator of a haphazard approach to doing business.
  • Help file was lacking – Perhaps I'm just used to very robust help files from working with Microsoft products, but the help file that accompanied this product was very thin on content. There was barely enough information to get up and running (fortunately, the product isn’t too difficult to use), and there also wasn't much about actually using the product. I ended up having to mess around with it a bit in order to get the hang of it, which isn't always a bad thing. But I prefer to have more extensive documentation. This is an area that SoftCab can definitely improve on.
  • Performance – My computer seemed to slow down after installation. The additional CPU cycles needed to perform the encryption and decryption negatively impacted my testing computer. The performance degradation was definitely noticeable, but it certainly did not render my PC unusable.

Cost analysis
Stealth Storage can be purchased for $34.95 online directly from Softcab or at other places such as SoftPedia.com. Similar products in the same niche cost on average from $25 to $40 (products that I compared). For the features you get with Stealth Storage, the price is fairly reasonable, and if Softcab were to clean up its user documentation a bit, it would be even more compelling.

Final analysis
As a general rule, I'm very harsh on software. Coming from an integration and testing background, I tend to hold software to a high standard of quality. In today’s jam-packed software arena, there's a small margin for error. Having a quality product is important, and overall, SoftCab has one with Stealth Storage. However, it seems that some business savvy may be lacking in the nontechnical aspects of Stealth Storage (e.g., documentation, limited Web site, etc.). That said, I believe that this tool is probably very useful on systems that host highly sensitive data such as business trade secrets, financial data, customer information, health care data, government data, etc.

I have to give Stealth Storage three out of five stars on the overall package. There's definitely some room for improvement, but SoftCab is on the right track with the product, and it serves its primary purpose well.

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