Protect Your Files | Use Encryption

By TOM BOWSER


ENCRYPTION is the process of scrambling data or information to make it unreadable. The encrypted data or information can be "decrypted" to make it readable once again. Encryption can be used to protect the confidentiality of data or information and deter unauthorized access. Encryption is an important tool you can use to protect your privacy. You can use encryption to protect important files and information you send using e-mail or store on your computer, other device or a portable drive.

Read my tutorial "Improve Computer Safety" to learn additional things you can do to improve your security, safety and privacy when you use a computer or other device (laptop, tablet, phone) that connects to the Internet.



Why You Should Use Encryption

There are numerous methods by which malicious individuals can gain access to your computer/s, devices (laptop, tablet, phone) or portable drive and all the information they contain.

Home and SOHO (small office, home office) computer users should use encryption to reduce the possibility of becoming victims of identity theft. Information stored on a desktop computer, other device (laptop, tablet, phone) or portable drive that uniquely identify's a person or business should be encrypted. Encrypt documents, spreadsheets, databases that store social security and drivers license numbers, business tax id (FEIN), credit card, and bank account numbers. These types of data have value in the underground economy and are purchased, sold and traded by criminals using the Internet and other means. Identity thieves can use these types of uniquely identifying information to commit fraud in your name or business name.

SOHO (small office, home office) businesses should consider their potential legal liability if private employee information is stolen and used to cause harm (identity theft). Databases, spreadsheets and any document that contains private employee information should be encrypted.

Use encryption to control access to valuable customer and vendor/supplier lists and databases. A disgruntled employee might steal customer and vendor lists for use at a future employer (your competitor perhaps). Customer and vendor or supplier lists would prove useful if an employee leaves to start a similar business. The theft of these types of information could jeopardize the competitiveness, future growth and longevity of your business. According to an "E-Crime Watch Survey" conducted by the US Secret Service, CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) and CSO Magazine when the perpetrators of electronic crimes could be identified 29 percent were committed by insiders.

Lastly, use encryption to protect valuable business assets, for example, copyright protected ideas, content (video, audio, programming code) and processes you or your SOHO business has developed. Use encryption to protect sensitive data, files or information you send across the Internet by e-mail, IM (Instant Messaging), chat or other methods.

The encryption applications I discuss below are freely available for download from the Internet. The one exception is EFS (Encrypting File System) which is included with select versions of Microsoft's Windows operating systems starting with Windows 2000. I've focused on FREE encryption solutions to offer you a no cost opportunity to begin using encryption. The applications are easy to use, well tested and high quality. Click on an application name to learn more about the product.


Free Encryption Applications


Product Description
NOTE: Backup all your files BEFORE you install and use any new software.
AxCrypt Easy to use strong file and folder encryption, integrated with Windows Explorer. Encrypt, compress, decrypt, wipe, view and edit with a few mouse clicks. Encrypt/protect data/files to include spreadsheets, database files and Word documents that hold important personal and or customer information. Works great to encrypt files you send across the Internet by e-mail, IM (Instant Messaging), chat or other methods.
KeePass A "password manager" you can use to store, organize and protect your important passwords, usernames and notes. You only have to remember one, well constructed password to open this password manager. The confidentiality of everything stored within KeePass is protected using encryption. Use the included "password generator" to create more secure passwords that are harder to guess or crack. The password generator is also useful to create complex passwords to use when setting up wireless devices and networks.
Password Agent Lite A "password manager" you can use to store, organize and protect your important passwords, usernames and notes. You only have to remember one, well constructed password to open this password manager. The confidentiality of everything stored within Password Agent Lite is protected using encryption. Use the included "password generator" to create more secure passwords that are harder to guess or crack. The password generator is also useful to create complex passwords to use when setting up wireless devices and networks.
VeraCrypt VeraCrypt enables you to create one or more "virtual encrypted disks" you can use to store important files. You copy files to and from a virtual encrypted disk using the same methods you use with any other drive or folder. The confidentiality of files stored within a virtual encrypted disk is protected with encryption. You can also encrypt an entire hard disk, partition or a device such as USB flash drive. VeraCrypt automatically and transparently encrypts in real time.
EFS Encryption system built into versions of Microsoft Windows beginning with Windows 2000 Pro. Use EFS (Encrypting File System) to encrypt files within folders/directories. Read my tutorial "How To Use Windows Encrypting Files System" to get started using EFS.