Microsofts Private Folder 1.0 lets users store files in an encrypted, password-protected folder.
"Microsoft Private Folder 1.0 is a useful tool for you
to protect your private data when your friends, colleagues, kids or other
people share your PC or account. With this tool, you will get one password
protected folder called 'My Private Folder' in your account to save yourpersonal files," Microsoft said on its Web site.
To use Private Folder 1.0, users must be running Windows
XP Home Edition, Professional Edition or Media Center Edition with SP2. Users
must also run their machines through Microsofts antipiracy system the WindowsGenuine Advantage program (WGA).
But is such an easily installed, unrecoverable,
password-protect folder a benefit or hazard? As an former college professor ofmine said, "it depends".
Private Folder 1.0 isnt Microsofts first encryption offering.
Encrypting File System (EFS) gives Windows 2000 and Windows XP users the
ability to secure folders on NTFS volumes. This can be a handy tool for the
advanced Windows user, but the average user can have trouble configuring and
effectively using EFS. Third-party encryption applications are also available,
but uses may not know how to find them or still have difficultly configuring
them. For novice users, Private Folder 1.0 seems like a good optionuntilhe/she forgets the password.
My first problem with Private Folder 1.0 is its lack of a
recovery mechanism. Unlike EFS Encrypted Recovery
Agent (ERA), Microsoft Private Folder provides no mechanism to retrieveencrypted data if the password is lost or forgotten.
My second problem is more a policy concern. Organizational
users shouldnt be encrypting corporate or institutional data without express
permission. And they shouldnt use a method with no recovery mechanismsee my
first problem. What happens with the user leaves the organization and forgets
to share their password or forgets their password and has placed critical filesin the private folder?
For a more complete description and detailed look at Private
Folder 1.0, check out this
comprehensive screenshot gallery. It has over 30 images that show the
installation process, Private Folder in action, and what happens with youuninstall the application.
Overall, I like the idea of Microsoft Private Folder 1.0,
but think the implementation needs work. Microsoft would go along way toward easing
my, and I believe many other IT pros, concerns by adding recovery and/oradministration mechanisms.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.