If you’re like many people that spend any amount of time online, you’ve probably had concerns or problems with probably the most common issues people have with surfing the net lately; security. For many, more and more interactions and transactions are taking place online, and everywhere you go you have to enter a user ID and a password. You can’t complain since security for the most part is a good thing, but it’s hard to remember the login credentials for every site you go to, and with all of the online identity theft scams going on these days many people are leery of entering their financial information online at all.
GuardID has a product called the ID Vault which we recently had the opportunity to review that goes a long way to help thwart online scams and gives you a single point to store login information. As a software engineer that has been developing hosted applications for years I’ve always trusted my own ability to identify phishing scams and unsecured sites, and I had never used a product like this before as I’ve always been hesitant to put all my information into one point of access. Although I still feel I do a good job of watching out for scams on my own I do have to admit that after spending some time with ID Vault product I’ve changed my tune and am pretty impressed with the secure environment this product creates.
The ID Vault consists of some easily-installed software on your computer and a small USB-connected token (looks like a thumb drive) that houses a microchip which stores your encrypted information using smart card technology. The product does provide a great convenience with one point of access to everything, but it does so with two-factor authentication, or what some call multi-factor authentication. Once you have the ID Vault set up with your login credentials and/or financial information, accessing it always requires the combination a PIN number and the physical ID Vault device connected to your computer.
Installing the ID Vault software took only a minute and once it was set up it had easy-to-follow instructions that both prompted me and guided me through adding authentication to different sites. When logging into websites the software would prompt me to add the website and login information to the ID Vault automatically. The next time I accessed the site, simply be entering my PIN it would automatically log me into the site saving me both time and trouble.
Remembering your login ID and password to different websites is a nice convenience, but where the ID Vault really seems to shine is by giving you secure access to shopping sites and even to financial institutions. The software is aware of and monitors over 7,000 different financial institutions, so there’s a good chance yours is one of them. If not you can email GuardID and there’s a good chance they’ll add it for you. By selecting your financial institution the setup guides you through entering your credentials and verifying that they are correct, all through the software’s own “browser”. This not only lets you access it securely but also ensures you are accessing the correct site and not entering your login info into some type of bogus phishing scam website. The software also has over 500 popular shopping sites in its database such as Amazon.com, Ebay, Buy.com and just about anything else you can think of.
Another nice point of security is an on-screen keyboard that he software provides when entering your sensitive information. It takes a few seconds longer to type it in by clicking with your mouse but the advantage is that it rids the chance of any keystroke logging software picking up your password sensitive information when you type it.
We did run into an issue with using the ID Vault software and Firefox. I installed it on two different Windows XP machines and although it seemed to work flawlessly with a couple different versions of Internet Explorer we did not get it to run successfully with our Firefox browser. Upon calling support, GuardID did say they are aware of the problem and have a fix coming for that soon.
The actually USB device looks like a USB flash drive in a small and solid frame with a rubberized grip and an looped attachment at one end so you can keep it on your keyring to avoid misplacing it. The USB connection is spring loaded and retracts into the frame with the press of a button to keep it safe from damage. Also, the stored information goes with the USB device as apposed to the installed software. So if you need to access your secure sites from a different computer you can simply download the software from the ID Vault website. You can then connect your USB device, enter your secure PIN and you are good to go.
Overall I was impressed with the lengths GuardID has gone to help provide a safe environment for accessing websites, online banking and online shopping. Using the software was very intuitive and I felt comfortable with entering my information on the device. I see it as a safe and effective solution for anyone, and especially those who currently have reservations about entering they’re credit card or banking information online. The ID retails for $49.99 and you can make it your last less-secure online purchase or go physically pick one up and a number of popular retailers like Amazon.com, Best Buy, CompUSA or OfficeMax.