Hybrid CD/CD-R technology offers on-the-fly encryption

A new method for encrypting data to removable storage holds promise, but has a few downsides.

There are lots of solutions out there for encrypting data to removable storage. But one of the more interesting is produced by the Japanese company Ricoh, marketed in the U.S. through Kano Technologies. Called EncryptEase, this variation on a theme consists of a writeable CD with an inner ring of read-only media that contains a bundle of encryption software. Ricoh calls this proprietary media CD-RR.

The concept is simple. When you insert the disc, it automatically prompts you to install a special encryption driver and then reboots the system. Upon rebooting, you can then drag-and-drop files to the CD, where they will be password-protected and encrypted. Passwords can also be given an expiration date, so that sensitive data can be automatically "timed out" after a certain period.

Reading back the files works the same way, and requires the presence of the encryption driver to work properly. (Ricoh is reportedly working on a version that will allow people to read data out from the disc without installing the encryption driver.)

The idea is novel, but the system has a few downsides. One of them is the presence of the encryption driver. If all you had to do was run a self-contained application from the CD to allow drag-and-drop encryption to the disc, the solution would be a lot more robust. The second drawback is the cost of the discs: Each has an SRP of $6.99, and each disc only supports up to 20 write sessions. Files cannot be automatically spanned across multiple discs—they need to be manually split and then copied out across the discs.

Given how the implementation is limited, it might simply make more sense to use an open-source encryption tool, such as the versatile TrueCrypt, and burn the files thus generated to CD. But if Ricoh refinies its idea and if it were not limited to CD media, it could have real potential.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators. He is also the author of the book Windows Server Undocumented Solutions.

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This was first published in May 2006

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