Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: Splash Data, go to the web site
Requires: Supports all handheld models running Palm OS 3.1 or later, 220KB of free memory for the application and about 10KB for the data, Windows 95, 98, ME, NT4, 2000 or XP; Mac OS OS 9 or OS X
MSRP: US$19.95 (download)

I use my Palm OS PDA for a lot of different things - every human I know is listed in the address book (in SuperNames), all my meetings and appointments (in DateBk5), and all my logins and passwords (approximately 60 of them including online banking IDs!) are also stored on the device. Up until now, the security for all this stuff has been taken care of by the rather weak password system built into Palm OS. I misplaced my trusty Palm Zire 71 recently and briefly went into a blind panic when I realized just how vulnerable I suddenly was. Needless to say, I was in a fairly tense state until the misplaced device revealed itself where I had left it on the bookshelf in my office. The next day, as though planned by Newton himself, Splash Data contacted us about reviewing the latest version of SplashID. Happy was I.

SplashID is a personal identification organizer for Palm OS handhelds. It's supposed to safely and securely store personal information including user names, passwords, credit cards, calling cards, bank accounts, PINs and anything else you don't want anyone to see. Your data is stored in a secure, encrypted database which can be accessed on your Palm OS handheld or desktop computer (PC or Mac).

After installing SplashID we realized the program actually consists of three integrated components: the SplashID Palm OS program, the SplashID PC desktop program, and the Splash Conduit which provides a secure pipeline so that HotSync can transfer your SplashID data back and forth between the PC and PDA. The biggest benefit of all this is that you can also access all your encrypted data on the PC using the same password you set for the program on the PDA. Once you've set up a password, SplashID is about as secure as you can get on a Palm OS PDA. While it's true that just about any encryption can be cracked given enough time and resources, you've got to ask yourself if anything you might store on your PDA is worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of effort needed to crack properly encrypted password protection. The simple answer is likely an emphatic "No!".

The first action you should take, in order to get the most out of the program, is to set a password (you have to use the exact same password in the desktop program in order to synchronize data). Thereafter, all data entered into SplashID will be protected by Blowfish encryption. For the technical minded, Blowfish is a symmetric block cipher that can be used as a drop-in replacement for DES or IDEA. It takes a variable-length key, from 32 bits to 448 bits, making it ideal for both domestic and exportable use. Blowfish was designed in 1993 by Bruce Schneier as a fast, free alternative to existing encryption algorithms. Since then it has been analyzed considerably, and it is slowly gaining acceptance as a strong encryption algorithm. Blowfish is unpatented and license-free, and is available free for all uses. It looks to us as though the blowfish implementation in SplashID is quite robust. We had an analysis routine run on the encrypted data and couldn't actually detect a legible key (and that's a good thing).

When you start SplashID, the first thing you'll see is the List of current entries. Tap one to get the details. Tap the New button to enter data. From the Detail view (tap any record or tap the "New" button) you can enter data for existing or new records, categorize everything, assign a descriptive icon to any or all records and even adjust the user interface (changing fonts, column widths and so on). We noted that the displayed data was extremely clean and legible on our high res Zire 71 and quite good also on an older greyscale Clie PEG-S360. We entered data using the Graffiti area, the tap keyboard and via an external keyboard. Data entry was simple and we encountered no crashes or other glitches except for some minor difficulty placing the cursor at the very beginning of some lines when using the Zire. We've seen this problem with other programs running on the Zire 71, so it's likely a Palm OS 5 issue.

If you've been keeping IDs, logons and other confidential data in MemoPad, or if you can export to MemoPad, SplashID will import the memos directly. You can also import comma separated values text files (CSV) from any database as long as the data fields have been set up according to SplashID's requirement.

Cons: It would be nice if SplashID could import data directly from the Palm OS address book. None of the competing software does it either, but we'd like to see someone do it and include an option to delete the address book record as soon as the data is imported into SplashID. We question the value and security of data beaming with utilities like SplashID even if you can only beam encrypted data records to and from other SplashID owners.

Pros: Works well and fast. Very secure. There's no doubt that your most personal (and valuable) data is safe when stored inside password protected SplashID. You can tap a URL in any listing in the desktop program to launch your web browser. We really liked the fistful of extra customizable fields in each record and the almost unlimited number of categories which can be created (we created over a hundred new categories before we gave up trying to trip the program). We liked the ability to assign different colors to different records - we set up a color code to indicate different categories. Keep whatever personal data you want on your Palm OS PDA and sleep easy knowing everything is securely tucked away from prying eyes, thieves, hackers and you-name-it. Works on your PC without the PDA. This one's a keeper. Highly recommended.

Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: whine@kickstartnews.com




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