Review: FileGuard 3.05
Product Information Requirements
Published by: ASD Software, Inc.
4650 Arrow Highway, Suite E-6
Montclair, CA 91763
Phone: (909) 624-2594
Fax: (909) 624-9574
Virtually any Mac
System 7.0 or higher
The Security Issue
A personal computer gives each person the same computing power as a mainframe computer from the late 1970's. What a personal computer doesn't give you is the same sense of security as a mainframe computer. The simplest solution is, of course, to work alone in an isolated room. Unless you're a hermit, you probably face daily security risks ranging from your children erasing that 20 page proposal you were just about to courier to your boss to the well-intentioned coworker installing version 0.8a of The-World's-Best-Internet-Browser. A security program can prevent unauthorized access or changes to your hard disk.
Desirable Security Feature
Individual security needs dictate the kind of security software you need. Purchasing a $1000 security program may be overkill if all you need is a simple password to keep your 2 year old child out of your files. For those of you who desire more advanced security or those of you who need to share a Mac, keep reading.
Some desirable security features are:
- Time Restrictions. Access to a Mac is limited to specific days and times.
- Volume Security. Individual volumes such as hard drives, partitions, ZIP drives are password protected. Once access to a volume is granted all files on that volume are accessible.
- Folder Security. Individual folders are protected. Different access privileges such as read, write, see files, and delete can be assigned to individual users.
- File Security. Access to individual files is protected with a password and/or encryption.
- Logging. A record is kept of who used the Mac, how long they used it, and which files were opened.
- Secure File Deletion. Normally, when a file is deleted by dragging its icon to the Trash, only its directory entry is removed. The file's content data remains on the disk and can be retrieved with Norton Utilities or MacTools. By contrast, a secure file delete will destroy the file's contents by overwriting the disk space occupied by the deleted file with random data.
ASD Software's DiskGuard provides basic folder and file security and is well suited for protecting your personal Mac. FileGuard provides enhanced security features for the shared Macintosh and allows you to easily set up and define individual privileges for any number of users. When a FileGuard protected Mac is turned on, all users are prompted to enter a user name and password.
Configuring FileGuard involves a few straightforward steps: selecting or adding users and groups, assigning an administrator, and configuring users' access to resources such as files, folders, and applications.
FileGuard security uses the same model as the Mac's User & Groups feature. Individual users are defined as owners of files and folders. Users can be placed into Groups that share common security privileges. Users other than the Owner of file or folder, and users who are not members of a Group, are placed in a special group called "Everyone."
The Configuration window is the starting point for FileGuard operations and resembles the Finder. Drag & Drop is fully supported, so files and folders can be dropped onto the Configuration window from the Finder. Creating a new user & group is done using an interface similar to that of Mac's Users and Groups. The administrator is a user designated to maintain security on the Mac. The Administrator can define Super Users to assist in managing security on the Mac. Super Users can perform most of the same operations as the Administrator except they cannot create or delete other users.
The User Configuration screen, shown below, defines a user's privileges. The many security options, accessed through a simple configuration screen, merit brief explanations.
Login Days and Time. The days and times a user is allowed to use the Mac. Users are warned 3 times before the end of their allowable access time.
Documents. A user can be allowed to encrypt documents using one of 4 encryption algorithms. To maintain the current state of your hard drive, a user can be forced to save new documents only to a floppy disk. The Lock/Unlock option allows the user to change the Lock status in a file's Get Info window.
Folders. Access rights to folders can be defined by the user.
Password. A user can be allowed to change their password. Other options define the form the password must take and how often a password must be changed.
Volumes. If checked, the user can control access to volumes, erase volumes, and insert a floppy disk.
Software. A user's or group's configuration determines whether they: have access to certain applications, can copy applications, or have access to installed programs not listed in their Authorized Software list.
Log. Determines whether or not the user can view their log file or the log files of other users. A log file tracks files accessed and login/logout times.
Misc. Allow a user to access FileGuard's administrative functions when this box is checked.
In the configuration screen for Bina, she is allowed to use the Mac at any time Monday through Friday. She can control access rights to folders and applications as well as view her own log file. She can save new documents only to floppy disk.
Protecting volumes, folders, and files is also a straightforward process. Protecting a volume with a password ensures that even if the FileGuard extension is removed a password is still required before the volume can be mounted. Volume passwords are not normally required since the user will already have entered a password to log in. Volume protection can be applied to removable media such as floppies and Syquest drives to force the user to enter the correct password before the volume is mounted. If a protected volume is inserted into a Mac that is not running FileGuard, only a special "Open Me" will be visible. Double-clicking the Open Me application will inform the user about the steps required to mount the protected volume.
A folder is protected by setting access privileges for users and groups the same way as privileges are set using File Sharing. The screen shot below shows that the Apple Extras folder, its contents and all of its folders are protected from being changed by anyone except the Owner.
Applications can be password-protected. This means a password must be entered before the program can be launched. The manual states that PowerPC native applications cannot be password-protected. A work around is to protect the folder containing a PowerPC native application. There are two options for protecting applications. The Demo Application option will create a demo version of a program, which a user can launch a preset number of times or use for a preset amount of time. The Copy Protection option prevents unauthorized copying of software by preventing a user from launching the software on any Mac other than the machine used to protect the application.
Another way to protect applications is to "authorize" the software. Each user or group has their own list of applications that can be launched. Authorizing software reduces the risk of virus infection. New, potentially infected software, cannot appear in the Authorized Software List unless it is placed there by a Super User or Administrator.
Documents can be protected by encrypting, using one of four encryption algorithms. A document can be made self-decrypting to protect electronic transfers from being intercepted and read.
Real World Use
I have suffered extension conflicts, lost files, and in a few cases I have even lost entire hard drives with other security programs. In one case, I was able to use Apple File Exchange to read a "protected" volume. Initially, the thought of evaluating another security program filled me with dread. After I backed up my hard drive completely, I installed FileGuard from the single disk it came on by double-clicking the install application. Since I received version 3.0.2 I downloaded version 3.0.5 from ASD's web site. Not only was their web site fast, the upgrade took less than 3 minutes to install.
I was pleasantly surprised by FileGuard's ease of installation and configuration. After using FileGuard for several weeks I could not attribute any crashes to FileGuard. To test FileGuard's robustness, I created several user accounts and allowed several people access to my Mac. FileGuard's security features performed flawlessly despite all our attempts to bypass its security. Any limitations I detected were well-documented in the manual.
I did come across several minor anomalies that in no way affected the Mac's security. The most serious of these occurred when FileGuard's screen saver came on after a user worked past their allowed access time and kept insisting that the user only had 5 minutes left before his time limit expired.
Accessing the FileGuard-protected Mac over AppleShare worked as expected. An attempt by the "client Mac" to launch a protected application resulted in a request for the password. Software not included on the Authorized List could be launched remotely. This was expected since the Authorized List only prevents unauthorized applications from being launched locally on a Mac protected with FileGuard.
FileGuard is almost a complete security program for corporations, small businesses, or users who want more security than that offered by simple screen saver passwords. Aside from a few minor anomalies, I found FileGuard to be very good at what it does, simple to use, and reliable. It's a program that I would recommend to my clients.