Strengths: Performance, transparency of use, ease of installment
Weaknesses: Be prepared to re-format the disk
Verdict: A competent and effective hardware-based encryption solution.
One of the issues with software encryption systems is that you have to take care to have all the relevant software elements, certificates and so on precisely configured and in place. One little slip-up and you may find yourself locked out of your own data.
An alternative approach is to use a hardware-based encryption engine that will always be in place and, typically, will also offer much better encryption performance. This is just such a device.
It sits quietly inside the PC, in line with your IDE drive cable, encrypting and decrypting everything that goes to or from the drive. It is an elegant and effective way of providing encryption that is transparent to the user once they have logged on.
User authentication takes place at the pre-boot level and can be accessed via a password or password and USB token (DigiSAFE KeyCrypt). As a result, DeskCrypt will work with just about anything that your PC hardware supports. It is compatible with ATA parallel connections up to ATA-6, and comes with a pair of IDE cables.
The device is powered from one of your internal power supply connections. A fly lead is supplied to make this easier and to maintain the number of power connections available to other devices. You’ll need a DeskCrypt for each hard drive, although for most users this will not be an issue as a single drive is typically used within the PC.
You must also be prepared to re-format your hard drive and re-install the OS. This might be a problem for some users, but it is not too much of a task. It can be deployed at the time a new PC is imaged and provisioned by the IT department.
The encryption algorithm is 3DES, up to 192-bit encryption. The hardware encryption engine has been certified by NIST and CSE, and the whole package meets FIPS 140-2 level 2 requirements.
DeskCrypt is suitable for those totally committed to hard drive encryption and for whom performance is paramount. If a hard drive is subsequently stolen or lost, everything on it will be encrypted and secured. If the whole PC is stolen or lost, then data security will naturally only be as good as your user authentication process.
However, there are other less drastic network scenarios where it is comforting to know that your hard drive is entirely encrypted and DeskCrypt provides a seamless and effective way to do this.