capsule review

PGP Desktop Security 7.0.3

With the increasing use of portables, removable media, and always-on network connections, more and more of us are beginning to put a premium on security. PGP Desktop Security 7.0.3 is a comprehensive collection of applications, plug-ins, and utilities that can help you to keep your data to yourself. The suite secures files, entire volumes, as well as e-mail, and also provides firewall protection and the ability to set up virtual private networks (VPNs).

Not Just for E-mail Anymore

PGP (which stands for "pretty good privacy") started out as a single, freely available e-mail encryption tool, and while PGP Desktop Security accomplishes that, via plug-ins that work with the major e-mail applications, it's grown, and now includes tools that can do a lot more than encrypt e-mail messages.

Command Central: Though the suite contains a series of different applications, you can set preferences from one location.

One tool, PGPdisk, allows you to create encrypted volumes that you can mount on your desktop like a disk, except that without the correct password, no one else will be able to get at the data inside.

Interception of network traffic in transit is another problem that PGP Desktop Security aims to solve. Another of Desktop Security's tools, PGPnet, includes the only Mac OS-based IPsec (short for IP Secure) client available today, making it compatible with many VPN servers that use this protocol. Using IPsec, PGPnet encrypts all packets in transit between your Mac and a compatible VPN server. But PGP Desktop Security users can even use PGPnet to create ad-hoc peer-to-peer VPNs between two machines, without a server.

If you use an always-on connection such as DSL, it's important to set up a firewall that blocks attempts by miscreants to gain unauthorized access to your machine. PGPnet includes a firewall with several preset configurations for those who -- understandably -- don't want to learn the nitty gritty of firewall configuration. Unfortunately, even the medium-security configurations block common network services such as Timbuktu, and getting them reinstated requires more trial and error than should be necessary. There's also no way to save custom firewall configurations, making the experimentation process considerably more odious than it needs to be.

The suite also includes PGPscreen, a password-protected screensaver, and PGPmenu, a very handy utility that increases the value of the set. It creates a system-wide menu for easy access to PGP's encryption features within applications such as Outlook, Entourage, AOL, BBEdit, or even SimpleText.

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