Review: CenturionMail

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Review: CenturionMail

This product is designed to provide simple yet robust encryption for electronic communication.

This product is designed to provide simple yet robust encryption for electronic communication.

Installation was over in a matter of seconds on our test PC – a Sony Vaio Centrino 1.6GHz with 512MB of RAM. It was so quick that we actually had to double-check that the process was complete.

All components can be reached through the main CenturionMail console, a simple cut-down window with buttons to the different functions of the software. However, the software is really designed to be transparent, so most of its functionality can be gained through right-clicking files you want to encrypt or through Microsoft Outlook.

Clicking on the "encrypt and send message" button brings up a simple dialog box that helps carry out the main function of the software. It is straightforward – simply enter the subject of the email, write your message and attach your documents as you would any other email package.

As soon as you click on "send," however, it brings up another window that allows you to set the password the recipient must know to decrypt the message. Again, simply clicking on "send" brings up a Microsoft Outlook email message with the relevant email attached. In our case, as a Zip file.

The recipient of the email then receives the email as usual, but when they try to open the Zip file, it brings up a password prompt. Simply enter the right password and away you go.

One problem we did encounter with the program was when we attempted to send an encrypted message to a Gmail account. Google servers rejected the email as an "illegal attachment." As Gmail is still in Beta testing, we can only assume that the company has yet to perfect its filtering software, so the blame probably does not lie with CenturionSoft.

A logical element of the software is the ability to encrypt files and save them locally to protect them from prying eyes. It is as straightforward as sending an email, and perfectly secure.

This new version of CenturionMail offers a number of enhancements over earlier versions, most notably on-the-fly encryption, and two new components, Password Manager and Shredder.

The Password Manager module is a sensible step forward from the last version. It is designed to automate the process of storing and remembering passwords for the correct recipients. When used with the Outlook plug-in, it automatically fills in the relevant password field when it recognizes an email address. Password hints can also be saved and sent automatically.

Simply deleting a file or folder from Windows, including deleting it from the Recycle Bin, does not actually delete it from the system – it is reasonably straightforward to recover by anyone who knows what they are doing.

In response, CenturionSoft has developed a shredding capability. The Shredder function of the product is a new, welcome, addition to CenturionMail 3.0. Three levels of shredding are provided, two of which are Department of Defense accredited.

It is clear that the vendor has tried hard to keep this software as simple as possible, and we thank it for that. Nowhere is this more in evidence than its configuration and administration.

Bringing up the options window offers a simple page with three choices. Here you can choose the format in which the encrypted message is sent – whether .ZIP, .CAB, .EXE or the CenturionSoft's new .CEF extension.

This last allows you to circumvent some problems you may have with organizations refusing certain attachments such as .EXE and .ZIP for security reasons. Doing this successfully got around the earlier problem we came across with Gmail, as the recipient simply renames the .CEF file .EXE when they receive it.

You can also define the content of the text message the recipient gets when first opening the email, set a password for the use of the whole software, set the type of shredding, and determine whether you want to include a password prompt in the email to cut down on the risk of a recipient forgetting the agreed password.

Another neat little tool is the ability to designate a time after which an encrypted file becomes unusable, so increasing security still further.

The administrator toolkit of the software allowed us to specify the levels of security, as well as a company logo that the recipient of a message would see in the program when decrypting a message.

Overall, CenturionSoft is an excellent package and a welcome addition to the security battle.

One thing we would point out, however, is that the encryption process adds about 180KB to the size of a file, no matter the amount of data being encrypted. While this may not be much of a problem with larger files, if you are sending small documents via email it could be problematic.

The obvious way around this if you are using the programme to store documents locally is to encrypt folders rather than individual files, thereby cutting down on the amount of encryption needed.

For:

A reasonably priced and simple-to-use encryption package.


Against:

Encryption process adds significantly to the size of files. Some web-based email (Gmail) did not recognise some of the attachments.


Verdict:

If you do not want to risk emails being intercepted, but do not want to pay through the nose for protection – or attend a three-week training class to learn how to use it – this product is for you.

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