Product Reviews

WinMagic SecureDoc Review: Lock Down Your Laptops

WinMagic SecureDoc encryption software gets the better of hackers.

It's a story that's been told too many times to count. Secure information, circulating in offices, gets out into the wider world because someone steals or loses a laptop. The security breach often makes headlines and can cause endless headaches if the device held sensitive information. Good encryption is the obvious answer, and it's one that WinMagic SecureDoc version 5 does a remarkable job of providing. Using 256-bit encryption technology and pre-boot password authentication, SecureDoc version 5 provides desktop-based security that's convenient and simple to use.

The WinMagic encryption process applies to data sector by sector instead of simply working on an entire hard drive in one sweep. That seems to make cracking the data, in the event of a laptop loss, an even harder task than it would normally be.

The system is designed for enterprise use. SecureDoc version 5 also complies with a host of other companies' security requirements for full-disk encryption concerning data at rest for most portable devices.

Outside Help
In testing SecureDoc, I faced a problem: How do you test an encryption system? After all, I had the password to bypass the security features. And, for all I knew, the system could be telling me what I wanted to hear. So I invited two members of a local university's computer sciences department -- one specializing in software and another in hardware -- to attempt to crack into a personal laptop on which I had installed the silver edition of SecureDoc version 5.

Working individually and together, they didn't manage to crack it, even after pulling the resources of the entire computer department. At no point did either of them even get past the initial login screen. If I ever lose a laptop protected by SecureDoc, I'll sleep pretty easily.

The test system was a 32-bit Windows Vista laptop that dates to 2009. We did nothing special to the machine other than to allow SecureDoc version 5 silver edition to install itself using the WinMagic install system. There's a gold version of the product that allows for file and folder encryption, as opposed to the silver edition that does only full-disk protection. (I did not test that for this article.)

WinMagic can be installed on almost any system that runs Windows, and it's not dependent on any specific processor. In fact, the only requirements are at least a 1GHz processor and reliable clock or time source, which the OS and SecureDoc need to generate time stamps.

WinMagic SecureDoc version 5 is not the sort of thing you'd find at a retail shop. It's a product intended for large-scale implementations in which IT departments are looking for a solution to the problem of data security in the age of data portability.

Pricing and Precautions

The WinMagic price is based on a 1,000-license purchase because of the way it's intended to be used. If you're part of an IT culture that has that many users, with a significant number of them bringing information into and out of your location on a regular basis, you could do worse than to install SecureDoc version 5 on their machines.

A word of warning: Don't lose or forget your pre-boot password. We had some trouble with that following the initial install. This system is specifically designed to prevent anyone who doesn't have the appropriate password authentication from getting onto a machine. We figured it out, but it was a humbling experience. And don't write it down on your keyboard. That would kill the entire point of the exercise, wouldn't it?

WinMagic SecureDoc version 5 is more than worth the costs involved. It's incredibly easy to use and can protect your enterprise from a huge and potentially embarrassing or dangerous outcome if your system is ever lost or stolen.

WinMagic SecureDoc version 5

Price: $73.20 per 1,000 licenses
WinMagic Inc.
winmagic.com
888-879-5879



About the Author

Nate Wooley is a freelance technology writer and product reviewer.

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 SecurityGuy Ontario, Canada

Just to clarify one minor misapprehension a reader might take away - the Gold edition of SecureDoc allows for discrete File and Folder Encryption "on top" of full disk encryption... this means that you can have any number of specific files or folders each (or severally)encrypted with different encryption keys, residing inside a disk that is itself encrypted. Why useful? Among other things, it allows for discrete users on a shared computer to protect specific data such that their colleagues who also use the device can't access any information for which they don't have the key. Very cool - lots of other uses.

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