A safe place to keep documents

In an ideal world there would be no need for Cyber-Ark Software Ltd.'s Inter-Business Vault. The product's sole purpose is to keep your documents safe from prying eyes. So the first question you have to ask yourself before deciding against spending the money on Cyber-Ark is: Do you feel lucky?

If you can't afford to leave your data at risk, then Cyber-Ark is worth a look.

Cyber-Ark Inter-Business Vault is a client/server solution that protects documents with several layers of security. What makes the solution special, however, is that it is surprisingly easy to set up and configure. Cyber-Ark gives administrators a

great deal of control over user access and imposes relatively light burdens on the end user's experience.

The first level of security is the Cyber-Ark server, which is run on a dedicated system and includes its own firewall. No communications other than its own Vault protocol are allowed in or out.

Cyber-Ark also leads administrators through a process of cleaning and hardening the Vault server, including uninstalling all protocols except for TCP/IP, assigning privileges and disabling a selection of Microsoft Corp. Windows services.

The second layer of security is encryption. The Cyber-Ark system encrypts all transmissions over the network employing a virtual private network. Roughly 95 percent of the encryption takes place on the client system so that nothing bogs down on the server.

Next, files are also encrypted as they reside on the server.

Finally, Cyber-Ark offers its own access- control system that prevents users from viewing data they are not authorized to see. Each user's contact with the Vault must be authenticated. Administrators can select whether to employ passwords, public-key infrastructure digital certificates, RSA Security Inc.'s SecurID tokens, USB tokens or Windows domain authentication. And once users are authenticated, they will only be able to see data they are authorized to see.

In addition to specifying what safes users can access in the Vault, administrators can selectively allow individual users to monitor a safe, retrieve files, store files, delete files, back up the safe, confirm requests from other users and administer the safe. Administrators can also specify a maximum size for each safe.

What's more, Cyber-Ark offers distributed administration, making it an effective solution for agencies and departments needing to manage data access among far-flung offices and outside contractors.

The Inter-Business Vault also offers distributed authentication. Users at remote sites can use their local-area network sign-ons to authenticate their identities, eliminating the need for additional sign-ons. It also integrates into the existing enterprise infrastructure by providing extensive interfaces to systems based on Lightweight Directory Access Protocol.

However, the potential power of distributed administration may not be appropriate for every agency or department because it does require either trust in outside administrators or extreme vigilance by the central administrator.

A nifty Visual Security feature keeps a log of all activities in the Vault and allows users to track any file activity. If someone other than you has viewed or changed the contents of the safe, you'll see a yellow exclamation mark on the Vault symbol. Once you go into the safe, you'll see that files are marked according to their status. A blue mark, for example, means someone has accessed the file, and a red mark indicates that the file has been changed. Highlight a file, and then click on Inspect in the toolbar and you'll see the details about whatever activity has occurred.

This system could, of course, quickly lead to information overload, but we were impressed when we discovered that each user could control what kinds of access would trigger the visual alerts.

To work with a file in a safe, simply double-click on it. The file will be downloaded to a protected work space on your computer and opened in the appropriate application. When you close the file, it will be automatically saved on the Cyber-Ark server and removed from your hard drive.

Cyber-Ark even allows users to require confirmation from a Safe Supervisor before specified files can be accessed. And administrators can specify that only users from certain parts of the network, such as from a single terminal, can access specified files.

Administrators can also employ scripts to distribute files to safes. For example, you might write a script to ensure that users regularly distribute budget forms to

specified safes for access by appropriate users.

Cyber-Ark offers a native Windows graphical user interface and a Web client. In addition to local-area network access, gateways are also available for HTTP and FTP connections. A software development toolkit is also available if you want to create custom integrations.

For users familiar with Version 2.0 of Cyber-Ark, be aware that the main enhancement in Version 2.5 is faster response times. Cyber-Ark officials claim that the average response time is about four times faster.

Officials also claim that throughput has been roughly doubled in this new version. We did not do comparative performance testing between the two versions, but we did find the current version of the program to be very fast. In fact, download speeds seemed to be faster than with an unenhanced file server, thanks presumably to Cyber-Ark's automatic compression of files. At the very least, users should not find performance to be an issue under normal demands.

The bottom line: We were impressed with the solution's power and ease-of-use. Officials in agencies and departments that need to protect access to data will want to take a close look at Cyber-Ark Inter-Business Vault to see if its scalability, distributed administration and auditing tools fit their needs.

NEXT STORY: Treasury to outsource network

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