Lavasoft's Newest

excellent
key review info
application features
  • Choose to encrypt files for safe-keeping or shred documents you want to permanently delete with Lavasoft’s Digital Lock and File Shredder integrated into one program interface.
  • (5 more, see all...)

LavaSoft is a heavy name on anti-spyware market. Their only products are the world-known Ad-Aware and LavaSoft Personal Firewall. Well, it seems that this is about to change today as they are going to hit the market with two brand new products. These also activate in the field of security and deal with protecting the data stored on hard disk. This time it is not about online threats but securing your sensitive files from an intruder that gained physical access to your computer.

File Shredder and Digital Lock are the newest creations from LavaSoft and they can be acquired either separately or in a single suite called Lavasoft Privacy Toolbox. As the names suggest, the two applications allow secure shredding of the files on your computer by using standard wipe algorithms and encrypting your data, again, by using standard encryption algorithms.

Installing the suite gave me the impression that the software was going to be a mammoth and that the process would take ages to complete. That is because the steps for completing the install operation and the general looks are similar to installing Windows. First all the information has to be collected, then the installation is prepared, next the install process commences followed by finalizing it. However the entire operation was complete in quite a short time.

The interface is nice and cozy and there should be no problem handling it, regardless if you are a beginner, average computer user or an advanced one. The two menus available are displayed at the top of the window (File Shredder and Digital Lock). On the left side of the application window there are two sets of settings, one for each of the menus selected and one for the entire software.

Shredding Alternatives garner four distinct options, all of them extremely easy to handle. You can shred files and folders, the contents in Recycle Bin, system files (I know this sounds scary, but it is a safe option) and clean the free disk space on various drives available on your computer.

Although you are given only three shred algorithms when wiping files/folders from your disk, you should know that Privacy Toolbox from LavaSoft comes with no more than 13 choices in this sense, among which we count NSA standard, Air Force System Security, German Standard VSITR, Peter Gutmann's algorithm and Bruce Schneier's. I have to admit that the last two are my favorites as Gutmann provides a 35-pass security and Bruce Schneier's a 7-pass one and they are both highly secure and appreciated.

Choosing a different shred algorithm is done from the application's Settings window, under Shredding. For some reason it seems that file/folder shred window displays only three choices and the one in the middle is always your alternative as the ones flanking it do not change no matter what.

There are multiple methods for secure deleting your data. The classic one involves browsing to the desired file, but a much shorter variant is to drag and drop all the information into the shred window. And if you want the operation to be even swifter then it is enough to right click on the desired file(s) and access from Explorer's context menu Lavasoft and choose Shred option. The application window will open in an instance and you are ready to proceed.

The same can be done with Recycle Bin. Access its context menu and select Lavasoft option. The great part is that on Vista it'll delete the previous versions of the files as well (Ultimate, Business and Home Premium are equipped with shadow copy protection).

Although shredding system files sounds like an operation no user would like to proceed to, in this case it is just about that extra data left behind by different software as you work with them, temporary files and cookies. Shred System Files window lets you choose what files to shred and also gives a brief description on the selected folder as well as the path to it (well, as the interface is not resizeable you will get the complete path for some of them).

Unused disk space cleaning is the only option that allows choosing the shred algorithm without paying a visit to Settings window. The options are displayed in a drop down menu and each selection is briefly explained below. In the main window there are all the drives currently installed on your computer (including USB keys and floppy disks). Suffice to choose one of them and click shred button in the lower right corner and the process will start. Additional options let you enable extra thorough shredding which includes slack space (unused space in clusters).

During our testing we tried to shred by unchecking the two options at the bottom of the window (shred unused space and slack shredding), just to see what happens when Shred button is pressed. The answer is that nothing happens. At least one of the two has to be enabled.

Suspicious as I am I could not trust Privacy Toolbox's estimated time display during the operation and used my own timer to see how long it would take to shred the unused space of a 5.5 drive using DOD 5220.22-M ECE 7 pass algorithm. As you can see from the image at the end of the review the process is drawing near to the finish and the estimated time is 25 minutes. That would have been OK if the application had not started with approximately the same estimation time (constantly showed between 21 and 26 minutes to complete). The operation was completed in 19'17'' according to my timer and the Privacy Toolbox log.

The second tool of the suite is Digital Lock and it deals with file encryption. The three options visible in the interface are Encryption, Decryption and Self Extraction. Their names speak for themselves and the four encryption algorithms available for securing your files are SafeIT, BlowFish, TwoFish and Rjindael.

The encryption procedure is simple and the three methods used for shredding apply in this case as well. So you can browse for the file or folder, drop them into the window or use the shell context menu for a faster selection. At the bottom of the window you get to decide upon the fate of the original files after encryption is over (Shred, Delete or Leave the files). There is no save path to specify as the application will drop the result in the same location as the original.

Decrypting is the reverse process of encryption and the options are pretty much the same, with few differences. This time you can choose to stay on the safe side and after decryption you can select the files to be automatically opened and re-encrypted when closed. It sounds appealing and upon testing the option works like a charm, but only if the files are decrypted one at a time. The truth is that it would have been a bit uncomfortable to decrypt ten or more files and Privacy Toolbox opened them automatically.

Self Extraction is the last option in the menu and the job is done exactly the same as in the case of plain file encryption but the results will be executables that once launched will ask for the protecting password. It seems that the guys at LavaSoft have thought of preserving the file extension of the encrypted file for the user to see the type of file. Additionally, for not getting antivirus alerts, you can choose to change the file extension naming (e.g. from *filename.jpg.exe to *filename_jpg.exe).

Besides the options available in the interface Privacy Toolbox from LavaSoft offers an additional feature in Windows Explorer context menu: Encrypt and Send Mail to Recipient. As soon as you select this option for a file a new dialog will appear requiring to enter a password and choose the format for sending the encrypted files: HTML, SAFE (native Privacy Toolbox format) or EXE. A supplementary option allows you to archive the file with ZIP compression.

The particular option is HTML (Platform Independent Encrypted File) which allows any user, regardless of the platform the computer runs on to decrypt and save the encrypted file received via e-mail. The only things needed for this operation to complete successfully are the password for the file and a Java-enabled web browser. During our testing we have experimented some difficulties with viewing the name of the file in the web browser, but "Save" option worked like a charm. This happened in IE7, Maxthon (which is IE based) and Firefox but in Opera there was a reading error of some kind. This has something to do with the operating system (Vista) as on XP there was no problem.

Privacy Toolbox from LavaSoft is $39.95 and brings two excellent security tools. There are lots of shredding algorithms available and four encrypting standards. And if you add the ease of use you almost got yourself a bargain.

The Good

Extremely easy to use and very efficient, the two tools available in the suite do an excellent job. There are lots of shred options and encrypting the files is done swiftly.

The application appends a context menu in Windows Explorer allowing you fast manipulation of the files, be it for shredding or for encrypting.

Platform Independent File Format (HTML) is a real novelty and very handy feature. You don't need the application for decrypting the files and the only requirement is a Java-enabled web browser.

The Bad

There are minor glitches here and there like the fact that there is no Help file available into the open but deeply hidden in application folder, in the most unexpected place ("Template" folder).

Also, time estimating when wiping free space is quite misleading (it really made a bad impression).

The Truth

With a pretty steep price, Privacy Toolbox from LavaSoft does a great job at encrypting and shredding the files. The ease of use is amazing and you can protect your files in a few seconds (of course, it all depends on the file size). Depending on the algorithm used shredding can leave behind a squeaky clean disk with no worry about recuperating the files with a file recovery software.

You have 30 days of trial with absolutely no restriction in what concerns the features or options. All available in the evaluation version will be present in the full registered version.

Here are some snapshots of the application in action:


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user interface 5
features 5
ease of use 5
pricing / value 4


final rating 5
Editor's review
excellent
 
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