FREE: Encryption Tools to Protect Your Data
With the U.S. government ignoring the 4th Amendment, data breaches in the news every week, and identity thieves everywhere, more and more people are wondering how to protect their data and personal information. The answer is encryption, and it's no longer rocket science. Here's what you need to know about using encryption...
Use Encryption to Protect Your Privacy
Encryption is the last barrier between your personal business and other people’s noses. The good news is that free, high-security encryption tools are widely available, and they're easier to use than ever. But it does take a bit of extra effort to make them part of your secure communications and data storage.
With the government snooping into our phone records, emails and who knows what else, it may be time to trade some convenience for greater security.
I have written about encrypting local hard drives and removable storage media with free software such as TrueCrypt and SafeHouse Explorer. These solutions protect locally attached storage devices that you can lay your hands on.
But lots of data resides in the cloud now, passing through and being stored on other people’s servers. Most service providers do not encrypt users’ data and even if they do, they can be compelled to turn over decrypted copies to government agencies. Thanks to so-called “National Security Letters,” your trusted service providers cannot even tell you that they have been ordered to surrender your data. See my related article Is Cloud Storage Secure? to learn more about securing the data you store online.
Government surveillance aside, service providers themselves may mine stored copies of your data for profit. Ads on user interfaces and offers received via email or social media feeds are tailored to your inferred interests by analyzing the content of emails, Tweets, Facebook posts, your web browsing history, and other stored data. If your data is encrypted, it can’t be analyzed.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you will get less spam or online ads; it just won’t be as creepily related to your online activity. So the choice boils down to "give me ads that are completely irrelevant and/or offensive" or "give me ads that are (sometimes) related to what I do online."
Encrypting Your Email
Email can be encrypted before it is sent so that messages stored on mail servers cannot be read. Microsoft Outlook has a well-hidden encryption feature that can encrypt individual messages or every message sent. Mozilla Thunderbird can encrypt email with the aid of addons such as GPG and Enigmail (https://support.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/kb/digitally-signing-and-encrypting-messages). But many people rely on Webmail rather than desktop email clients. A number of encryption solutions are available for them.
EncryptFree works much like an online translator. Write your message text. Copy and paste it into Infoencrypt’s online form. Enter a password of your choosing and click “Encrypt.” Copy the encrypted text generated by EncryptFree into your email form and send it. Communicate the password to the recipient by some means other than email. The recipient can use the password and Infoencrypt to decrypt your message. Yes, it’s a hassle, but it works with any email app. (I personally prefer to send the lid of a Snapple bottle by carrier pigeon, with the understanding that the message inscribed on the underside is our secret decryption password. Shhh, don't tell the NSA...)
If you're a Gmail user, SafeGmail is a free extension for the Chrome browser that encrypts and decrypts Google Mail messages on the sending and receiving ends. Mail is encrypted during transit and while it resides on Gmail’s servers.
Hushmail has been around since 1999, providing end-to-end encryption of email. It supports mobile platforms including Android, Blackberry, and iOS.
Encrypting Your Social Media Postings
Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social media posts can be encrypted using Scrambls. A browser plugin encrypts selected text before it is posted to the service. Unauthorized viewers see only garbage text.
Make sure the encryption tools you use employ the strongest possible encryption, or your data could be unscrambled by a teenager with a spare PC and time on his hands. Currently, AES 256-bit encryption is the standard to look for.
Your thoughts are welcome on this topic. Post your comment, question or suggestion below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 18 Jun 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- FREE: Encryption Tools to Protect Your Data (Posted: 18 Jun 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved