How you can save money on security software
Thanks to smartphones, tablets, laptops and wireless networks we now have the freedom to work where we want, when we want. However, with this freedom there are also risks. If your employees' network-connected mobile devices contain sensitive customer data then it is the company's duty to ensure it is kept safe.
Failure to do so can result in financial damage in the form of fines from the Data Protection Commissioner, as well as major reputation damage.
One measure many businesses take to protect the data on their employees' laptops and mobile devices is the use of encryption software. Encryption involves encoding information so that only authorised users can read it. Using data encryption software, you can encode your data so that those with the 'key' to unlock the data see the information as normal while those who don't see only gibberish. Should your encrypted hard drive fall into a criminal's hands, the criminal would be unable to extract any useful information.
So what are the options when it comes to encryption software? Can less expensive open-source software match pricier proprietary packages?
Here is a look at one of the market-leading software packages (Symantec's EndPoint Encryption) and a couple of open source alternatives.
Standard package: Symantec EndPoint Encryption (Full Disk Edition), Cost: €30 per device licence
Pros: provides a central management console to enable safe, central deployment and management of encryption to endpoint devices. It is also compatible with additional Symantec encryption and security software. It has a host of extra features to further ensure securityand it encrypts the entire hard drive, protecting everything on it. It also has the ability to create policies based on document type, internet connection and other factors. Lastly, it's available on Windows and Mac.
Cons: It's expensive. Also, additional software (mentioned above) must be bought and installed separately. There's an inability to encrypt individual files while set-up can take a lot of time and can't simply be installed and used 'out of the box'. Finally, the interchange of files with other users requires them to install the software as well.
In summary: There's no doubt that this is one of the most popular choices amongst bigger organisations. Symantec Endpoint Encryption provides advanced encryption for desktops, laptops and removable storage devices. It offers scalable, company-wide security that prevents unauthorised access by using strong access control and powerful encryptions. It has a central management console that enables central deployment and management of encryption to endpoint devices.
Alternative 1: TrueCrypt, Cost: free
Pros: Firstly, it's free. It's also available for Windows, Mac and Linux. There's instant file and folder locking and also multiple, strong encryption algorithms, which means very secure data. Its on-the-fly encryption and decryption means that files get automatically encrypted right before they are saved.
Cons: It has restricted tech support. You also need to learn the basics of the software before using it. Windows 8 is not supported at the moment and its interface is a little outdated.
In summary: TrueCrypt is a free and powerful open-source disk encryption tool. You can create secure encrypted virtual disks or even encrypt entire drives. Over the years it has been tidied up and made more user-friendly to the point where working within a TrueCrypt volume doesn't feel much different to working on a regular unsecured disk. TrueCrypt also offers the ability to create hidden volumes within encrypted volumes for even more secure (and obscured) file protection.
Alternative 2: AXCrypt, Cost: free
Pros: As a free tool, AxCrypt is extremely user friendly. It also offers the option to encrypt copies of files to share via email. It works seamlessly within Windows and includes a file shredder so that the files can not be stolen at all from the hard drive. Its self-extracting file creator allows for sharing files with someone who doesn't have AxCrypt installed.
Cons: It only has one encryption algorithm and is only available on Windows. Also, copied files are saved in the .EXE format, which are blocked by many firewalls and spam filters.
In summary: Unlike the two products above, AXCrypt is an open source encryption solution that allows you to encrypt individual files rather than only full hard drives. It provides probably the simplest, most straightforward means of protecting your computer's files and documents. The program integrates easily into Windows, appearing as an item in any file's context menu.
Users simply right-click on the item they want to encrypt, select AxCrypt from the menu, and choose Encrypt. It doesn't get much easier than that.
Rohit Thakral is a DIT graduate and chief executive of Dublin-based Target Integration, an open source software company that specialises in providing CRM and ERP software.