Encrypt Stick 5.0 Adds Private Browser

By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2010-12-03

Encrypt Stick 5.0 adds a portable Web browser to ENC Security Systems' fine USB drive security software, ensuring customers can safely browse on an untrusted PC without leaving telltale cookies and browsing history behind. As with prior versions, Encrypt Stick 5.0 provides a fine, simple way to encrypt sensitive files and other data on a USB stick, allowing me to securely transport and access the information between any Windows-based PC without the need to install software anywhere. Also, as before, Encrypt Stick 5.0 let me create additional encrypted vaults on hard drives, protecting stationary data with Encrypt Stick's 512-bit polymorphic encryption.

But with version 5.0, ENC ramped up the functionality by providing a modern browser on the Encrypt Stick, which let me browse the Internet without worrying about leaving history or cookies behind on the PC. Instead, the history and bookmarks are kept within the Encrypt Stick's encrypted vault, allowing me to take my browsing information with me as I move between PCs.

Released in late November, EncryptStick 5.0 can be purchased directly from http://www.encryptstick.com for $40 although the new version is only available at this time for customers running Windows. (The Mac-compatible version has not yet been updated.) Customers who bought a previous version of Encrypt Stick can also download the upgraded version of Encrypt Stick with Digital Privacy Browser for free.

Encrypt Stick 5.0 works on any standard Flash drive, although ENC representatives say that lower-quality USB drives will negatively affect browser and encryption-speed performance. The software was quite easy to install, as the executable installer just copies all necessary files to the thumb drive, so the executable installer that was needed to access the vaults and Private Browser are included by default. From there, I just needed to follow the on-screen instructions to create a device password that will be used to unlock the device encryption when using Encrypt Stick.

ENC Security representatives warned me that Private Browser was going to render pages slower than a normal desktop browser-despite marketing to the contrary on their Website-and the Private Browser certainly lived down to this advanced billing. For instance, I found that while eWEEK rendered in Internet Explorer 9.0 in 5 seconds, the same page load took 15 seconds using Private Browser on the same PC. Another time, an Entertainment Weekly homepage took 4 seconds to render in Internet Explorer but 30 seconds in Private Browser.

I've been told the slow rendering problem will be addressed in version 5.1 although the time frame for that particular release was not provided.

Users are not allowed to add browser plug-ins themselves, but the Private Browser supports Javascript and Adobe Flash right away. However, I found support for the latter to be inconsistent between machines, seemingly without any reason why. I moved my Encrypt Stick between four different computers running various editions of Windows 7, finding Flash worked to display ads, animations and videos in Private Browser on two of the machines, while completely failing to work on the other two PCs. On the two failed computers, the Websites would say that Flash needed to be upgraded some of the time, while in other cases, Flash was not detected at all.

Private Browser supports tabbed browsing, and I could have multiple windows open at the same time. I also ran the Acid3 test (http://acid3.acidtests.org) against the browser, which scored a 99 out of 100, albeit with two noticeable differences from the reference rendering.

Annoyingly, I found that I could not use Encrypt Stick's Private Browser to directly download and save attachments or files from the Web to any Encrypt Stick-encrypted vaults, contrary to all of ENC's claims that Encrypt Stick avoids downloading to the local hard drive of the computer. I found I could save files obtained through the Private Browser to the local PC hard drive or to the public volume on the Encrypt Stick (where the executable can be found). Only at that point, could I move the file to one of my encrypted stores, selecting to securely wipe the file from the hard drive in the process. ENC officials again claim this capability will be added in a forthcoming release.

ENC has beefed up its Password Manager to integrate with the Private Browser. After clicking on the Password button from the Encrypt Stick interface, I created new password groups for commonly visited types of Websites. For instance, I created a Web mail password group, populating the group with my GMail and Exchange credentials. Then, when using the Private Browser to browse to one of the Web applications, I could separately right-click on the user name and the password fields to fill out the information I previously put into the Password Manager.

Like bookmarks and browsing history, Website credentials are stored securely within the encrypted vault on my Encrypt Stick, so the information goes with me when moving to a different computer.

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