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Using a VPN is a great way to shield your internet traffic when you're traveling, but it's not a solution for encrypting your local files. .

When the FBI needed information from the San Bernardino shot'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 make one. The FBI had to employ hackers to get into the phone.

Why wouldn't Apple help Because the moment a back door or similar hack exists, it will become a goal, a decoration for the bad guys. It'll leak sooner or later. In a talk at Black Hat last summer, Apple's Ivan Krstic revealed 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 of the products in this roundup explicitly say they have no back door, and that's as it should be. It does mean that if you encrypt an essential document and then forget that the encryption password, you've lost it for good.

Back in the day, if you wanted to maintain a document key you could use a cipher to encrypt it and then burn the original. Or you might lock it up in a protected. The two main approaches in encryption utilities parallel with those options.

One type of product simply processes files and folders, turning them into impenetrable encrypted versions of these. The other creates a virtual disc that, when open, acts like any other drive on your system. When you lock the digital drive, each of the documents that you put into it are entirely inaccessible. .

Like the virtual drive solution, a few products save your encrypted data in the cloud. This strategy demands extreme care, obviously. Encrypted information in the cloud has a much larger attack surface than encrypted data on your own PC.

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Which is better It really depends on how you plan to use encryption. If you are not sure, take advantage of this 30-day free trial offered by each of these products to have a sense of the different options.

Once you copy a document into protected storage, or make an encrypted version of it, then you definitely need to wipe out the unencrypted original. Simply deleting it isn't sufficient, even if you bypass the Recycle Bin, since the data still exists on disc, and data recovery utilities can often get it back. .

Some encryption products avoid this problem by encrypting the document in location, literally overwriting it on disk with an encrypted version. It is more common, though, to offer secure deletion as an option. If you choose a product that lacks this feature, you ought to find a free secure deletion tool to use along with it. .

Overwriting data before deletion is sufficient to balk software-based recovery tools. Hardware-based forensic recovery works since the magnetic recording of information on a hard drive isn't actually digital. It is more of a waveform. In simple terms, the procedure 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 look at this web-site like gibberish. Run that gibberish back through the box, with the 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 of the products gathered here service AES. Even the ones that support other algorithms tend to recommend using AES.

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

Passwords are important, and you must keep them confidential, right Well, not when you use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) cryptography.

With PKI, you get two keys. One is public; you can discuss it with anyone, register it in an integral exchange, tattoo it on your foreheadwhatever you prefer. The other is personal, and needs to be closely guarded. If I want to send you a secret document, I just encrypt it with your public key.

Simple! .

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

If you want to talk about a document with someone and your encryption tool doesn't support PKI, there are other 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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