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Using a VPN is a great way to shield 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 back door to get past the encryption. But no such back door existed, and Apple refused to create one. The FBI needed to hire hackers to get into the phone.

Why wouldn't Apple help Since the moment a back door or similar hack exists, it becomes a goal, a prize for the bad guys. It'll flow sooner or later. In a talk at Black Hat last summer, Apple's Ivan Krstic disclosed the company has done something similar in their cryptographic servers.

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Apple can't update them, but the bad guys can't get in either. .

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All the products in this roundup explicitly state that they have no rear door, and that is as it ought to be. It does mean that if you encrypt an essential document and then forget the encryption password, then you have lost it for good.

Back in the day, in the event that you wanted to keep a document secret you can use a cipher to encrypt it and then burn the original. Or you might lock it up in a safe. The two main approaches in encryption utilities parallel those options.

One sort of product simply processes files and folders, turning them into impenetrable encrypted versions of themselves. Another creates a virtual disc drive that, when open, behaves like any other drive on your system. When you lock the digital drive, all the documents you put into it's entirely inaccessible. .

Similar to the digital drive solution, some goods store your encrypted data in the cloud. This strategy requires extreme caution, obviously. Encrypted information in the cloud has a much larger attack surface than encrypted data on your own PC.

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That is better It her latest blog actually depends on how you plan to use encryption. If you're not sure, take advantage of this 30-day free trial offered by each of these products to have a sense of the different options.

After you copy a file into protected storage, or make an encrypted version of it, you absolutely need to wipe out the unencrypted original. Just deleting it isn't sufficient, even if you skip the Recycle Bin, since the data still exists on disc, and data retrieval utilities can often get it back. .

Some encryption products prevent this issue by encrypting the file in location, literally overwriting it on disc using an encrypted version. It's more common, however, to offer secure deletion as an option. If you select something that lacks this feature, you ought to 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 retrieval works since the magnetic recording of data on a hard drive isn't actually digital. It's more of a waveform. In simple terms, the procedure involves nulling out the known data and reading around the borders of what's left.

An encryption algorithm is similar to a black box. Dump a document, image, or other file into it, and you get back what seems like gibberish. Run that gibberish back through the box, with the exact same password, and you get back the original.

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The U.S. government has depended on Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) as a standard, and all the products gathered here service AES. Even the ones that support other algorithms tend to recommend using AES.

If you are an encryption expert, you may want another algorithm, Blowfish, possibly, or the Soviet government's GOST. For the typical user, however, AES is just fine.

Passwords are important, and you must keep them secret, 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 an integral exchange, tattoo it on your foreheadwhatever you like. The other is personal, and needs to be carefully guarded. If I want to send you a secret document, I simply encrypt it with your public key.

Simple! .

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Using this system in reverse, you can create an electronic signature which proves your document came from you and hasn't been modified. How Exactly To encrypt it with your private key. The fact that your public key decrypts it's all the evidence you need. PKI service is less common than support for traditional symmetric algorithms. .

If you want to talk about a file with someone and your encryption tool doesn't support PKI, 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 complimentary, decryption-only tool.

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