With pretty much all important data stored digitally these days, safeguarding that data is paramount. We’ve all read the news stories of government agencies losing laptops stuffed full of sensitive or even top secret data, but the most relevant debacle is the Child Benefit fiasco of 2007. For those of you who aren’t aware of that particular incident, let me remind you…
Officials at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs needed to supply the National Audit Office with data regarding all families entitled to Child Benefit. Consequently the personal details for some 25 million individuals were burned to a couple of CDs and popped in the post. Not only were basic safeguards like Recorded Delivery or hand to hand couriers not used, but absolutely no data protection was in place on the CDs themselves. Unsurprisingly, when those CDs never arrived, the public outcry was pretty much deafening.
Of course you simply can’t protect against the kind of gross incompetence from the example above, but today I’m looking at a product that will ensure that your data is kept safe no matter how incompetent everyone else may be. The AutoSave Encrypt CDSoft-R Cryptex (yes it’s a mouthful) discs from Think Xtra are designed to keep your data safe from prying eyes, without you having to employ any other security measures.
The Cryptex disc employs a combination of password protection and 256-bit AES encryption to stop unauthorised access of your data. You’re probably thinking that this is nothing new, since you’ve been able to encrypt data on CDs for some time now, and as long as every machine you want to read the disc on is equipped with your chosen encryption application you shouldn’t have a problem. But Think Xtra (TX) has taken this model a step further, because everything you need is embedded on the disc, and you are not required to install any kind of application or utility onto your PC.
As soon as you place the Cryptex disc into your CD/DVD writer it will autorun its embedded application and guide you through the process of archiving your data. The first screen you’ll see will let you choose the language you wish to use. You will then be asked to input and confirm your chosen password. Your password can be up to 256 characters long, so it really can be as safe as you want it to be – just remember that if you make your password too long or obscure, you may end up forgetting it yourself and then you’ll never be able to get at your precious data.
Once you’ve decided on your password, it’s just a matter of choosing which files and folders you’d like to archive to the disc. But you’re not using Windows Explorer or any other application on your PC to do this, since the disc has a file management utility embedded on it. From this utility you can either drag and drop files directly onto the window, or you can click the Add Files button and choose what you need. When you’ve collated all your files and folders, you just click the Burn button, and all your data will be recorded to the disc with the added bonus of 256-bit encryption.
The Cryptex is a multi-session disc, so you can keep archiving data to it until you’ve filled it up, or you can finalise the disc as soon as you’ve copied over what you need. If you want to read data from the disc, you need to enter the correct password, at which point you can access the files. Another nice touch is that when you eject the disc from the computer, the Cryptex utility will also erase any temporary versions of your files on the PC you were using. This “wipe” facility can also be used when archiving the data, thus erasing the original file from your PC and leaving only the encrypted copy on the CD.
If you’re wondering what’s stopping someone from using brute force to crack the password, there are some safeguards in place. First up, with up to 256 characters at your disposal you can make you password very strong indeed. Secondly, after every three incorrect attempts the disc is automatically ejected, so even if you’re using a password cracker program, you’ll need manual intervention after every three attempts. Obviously this doesn’t make the password protection infallible, but someone is going to have to be very dedicated, and have a significant amount of time on their hands if they hope to crack your password.
I did have one issue where I couldn’t burn to the disc from a machine that didn’t have admin access. I asked the guys at TX about this and they assured me that you shouldn’t need admin rights to use the Cryptex discs. Despite the issue I encountered with my review sample, I was told that retail discs will be universally usable, whether or not you have admin access on your PC. Oh and, unfortunately if you’re a Mac or Linux user, you’re out of luck because the discs only work on Windows, which is a shame.
At £24.95 plus VAT for a four-pack the TX CDSoft-R Cryptex discs couldn’t be described as cheap, but whether that represents good value depends entirely on how precious your data is. If making sure that no one can gain access to your sensitive data is paramount to you, then that will be a very small price to pay. In fact, going back to my original example, I’m sure that those HMRC officials wish that they had spent £25 and saved themselves a lot of worry and embarrassment.
If you’re not convinced on the merits of these self encrypting CD-R discs, for a limited time you can get a free sample, allowing you to try it out and see if it suits your archiving needs. I have also been told that DVD versions of the Cryptex discs are on their way, so if you have large amounts of data that you need to archive securely, they should suit your needs.
As with so many things, you either need this product or you don’t. If you want to archive or transport data without fear of unauthorised access, the Cryptex discs are pretty much ideal. The fact that everything is embedded on the disc itself makes the whole process unbelievably easy, and even though they’re not cheap, the cost of someone accessing your sensitive data could be far higher.