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Worth a Look: Traveling With Encryption

Travelers looking to take sensitive documents with them on the road can burn that data to a CD while simultaneously encrypting it using a new product from Ricoh called EncryptEase. Then, they can decrypt those documents using any computer that has an attached CD writer, add to or alter the data, and then burn it back to the same CD while reencrypting it. The twist is, the encryption software and the space for burning the files are on the same disk.

The EncryptEase “intelligent” disk is both a CD-ROM and a CD-R, meaning that it offers both an unwritable, protected space where the encryption software is contained, as well as storage space that can be written over many times, where encrypted data is held. That means that the only software needed to make the encryption happen is a small driver installed from the CD on first use; after that, just pop in the CD, and Windows recognizes it as a drive. Double-click on the icon in My Computer and the program starts to run.

The program encryption function couldn’t be easier to use. First you create a password. Then, simply drag in any files that need to be encrypted, click a button, and the program burns it to the disk. If you want to reverse the process, type in the password, select the encrypted file, and choose the “Copy to Disk Drive” option. Files are encrypted with extremely strong 2,048-bit encryption.

EncryptEase doesn’t offer many bells and whistles. However, if you’d like the data to be available only for a limited time, there’s an option to enter effective start and end dates. After the end date, the file is no longer accessible. Data can be written to a disk a maximum of 20 times (“sessions”), and separate tabs in the program’s window show each session date and time.

Pros. EncryptEase requires very little user intervention past choosing a password. After that, it’s as simple as using Windows Explorer to drag-and-drop files into it and locking them up.

Cons. If you have files that need to be encrypted but which you plan on revising often, you may feel restricted by the 20-session limit. And the broken English in the manual and in menu items (“Times of password input was over,” meaning you entered an incorrect password three times) makes one wonder why the marketing team at Ricoh didn’t spend some more time fine-tuning the product before sending it to market.

Where to get one. Balancing these reservations is the fact that the disks are cheap; they retail for $6.99 each at Ricohs Web site.