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Using a VPN is a great way to protect your internet traffic when you're traveling, but it is not a solution for encrypting your local files. .
When the FBI needed information from the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, they asked Apple to get a rear door to get beyond the encryption. However, no such back door existed, and Apple refused to create one. The FBI had to hire hackers to get into the phone.
Why wouldn't Apple help Since the moment a back door or similar hack is different, it will become a goal, a prize for the bad guys. It will leak sooner or later. In a discussion at Black Hat this past summer, Apple's Ivan Krstic disclosed the company has done something similar in their cryptographic servers.
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Apple can't update thembut the poor guys can't get in either. .
All of the products in this roundup explicitly state they have no rear door, and that is as it should be. It does mean that in the event you encrypt an essential document and then forget that the encryption password, then you've lost it for good.
Back in the day, if you wanted to keep a document secret you can use a cipher to encrypt it and then burn the original. Or you could lock it up in a safe. The two main methods in encryption utilities parallel these options.
One sort of product simply processes files and folders, turning them into impenetrable encrypted versions of these. The other creates a virtual disc drive that, when open, acts like any other drive on your system. When you lock the virtual drive, all the files that you put into it are entirely inaccessible. .
Similar to the digital drive solution, a few products save your encrypted information in the cloud. This approach requires extreme care, obviously. Encrypted data in the cloud has a much bigger attack surface than encrypted data on your own PC.
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Which is better It really depends on how you plan on using encryption. If you are not sure, take advantage of the 30-day free trial offered by each of those products to have a feel for the different options.
After you copy a file into protected storage, or make an encrypted version of it, you definitely need to wipe out the unencrypted original. Just deleting it isn't sufficient, even if you bypass the Recycle Bin, since the information still exists on disk, and data retrieval utilities can often return back. .
Some encryption products avoid this issue by encrypting the document in place, literally overwriting it on disc using an encrypted version. It's more common, however, to provide secure deletion as an option. If you select a product that lacks this feature, you should find a free secure deletion tool to use along with it. .
Overwriting information before deletion is sufficient to balk software-based recovery tools. Hardware-based forensic recovery functions because the magnetic recording of data on a hard drive isn't actually digital. It is more of a waveform. In simple terms, the process involves nulling out the known information and reading around the edges of what's left.
An encryption algorithm is similar to a black box. Dump a document, image, or other document into it, and you get back what seems like gibberish. Run that gibberish back via the box, with the exact same password, and you get back the original.
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The U.S. government has settled on Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) as a standard, and every one the products gathered here support AES. Even the ones that support other calculations tend to recommend using AES.
If you are an encryption expert, you may prefer another algorithm, Blowfish, possibly, or even the Soviet government's GOST. For the typical user, however, AES is just fine.
Passwords are important, and you have to keep them confidential, right Well, not when you use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) cryptography.
With PKI, you receive two keys. One is public; you can discuss it with anyone, register it in a key exchange, tattoo it on your foreheadwhatever you prefer. Another is private, and should be closely guarded. If I want to send you a key document, I just encrypt it with your public key.
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Using this program in reverse, you can make an electronic signature which proves your document came from you and hasn't been modified. How Just encrypt it with your private key. The fact that your public key decrypts it is all the proof you need. PKI service is less common than service for traditional symmetric algorithms. .
If you want to talk about a document with someone and your encryption application doesn't support PKI, additional hints there are different options for sharing. Many products allow creation of a self-decrypting executable file. You may also find that the recipient can use a free, decryption-only tool.