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Riot Isolator is a versatile but quirky security toolkit

17 March 2017, Mike Williams

Riot IsolatorRiot Isolator is an unusual application which offers a host of powerful privacy and security tools in a single free package.

The program should normally be installed to deliver the best protection, but there’s an option to run it stand-alone, convenient for testing.

Riot Isolator has a vast number of features. These include modules to prevent unauthorised software accessing your webcam, taking screenshots or logging keypresses.

There are tools to securely erase RAM, files, folders, or entire volumes.

A file unlocker attempts to close the processes using locked files, enabling you to access them.

Riot Isolator can block all or newly inserted USB keys, or make them read-only.

Anti-exploit tools try to prevent file extension spoofing or RunPE-type code injection attacks.

A “real-time recognise” feature claims to detect and warn you of packers used by an executable, as it launches.

Riot Isolator

There’s a lot of power here, but the interface isn’t nearly as good as it looks

A “Presentation Mode” sort-of locks the computer without hiding the screen. You could use this to leave someone watching a video or use some other application, and know they couldn’t easily switch to anything else.

A “Live Report” feature enables a degree of remote monitoring, uploading screen shots and other information which you can view from elsewhere.

While most of these modules can’t compete with specialist competition (secure deletion tools, file unlockers), there’s still a huge amount of power here. Unfortunately, a poorly designed interface makes this much more difficult to access than it should be.

Functions aren’t organised in any sensible way, for instance. Behaviour isn’t consistent. Tooltips appear in some places, but not others. It doesn’t make much sense.

We clicked the large “Network” tile, wondering what amazing functions it hid, only to see a not-much-larger graph of recent network activity. It would have been better to ditch the tile and have a smaller graph displayed all the time.

There’s also a large “Toolbox” tile which does nothing beyond act as a static label for the icons underneath. That could be ditched or reduced, too.

Crucially, for a security tool which has so many operating modes available, there’s no way to tell which ones are enabled from the console. Does the program have its anti-keylogger turned on by default, we wondered? There’s no status text to say. The anti-keylogger icon doesn’t change to show you whether it’s on or off.

Even if you click it, all you can do is tap a keyboard to turn it blue or black. Black might be “off”, a way of showing the anti-keylogger is inactive– right? Oops, wrong: blue keyboard means the anti-keylogger is disabled, black means it’s enabled.

You’ll figure this out, of course, and if you’re any doubt, right-clicking the Riot Isolator system tray icon displays the status of everything and enables toggling it. But the program still needs to make this clear and explicit in the console, too.

If you’re a security expert, don’t let our UI-pickiness put you off. There’s a lot of functionality here, and you don’t have to install anything to try it out. Just treat it with caution. And if you’re a security beginner, bookmark the download page and come back in six months, when hopefully the interface will be improved (ie replaced).

Riot Isolator is a free tool for Windows Vista and later.

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