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Using a VPN is a terrific way to protect your internet traffic when you are traveling, but it's not a solution for encrypting your regional files. .

When the FBI needed information from the San Bernardino shot's iPhone, they asked Apple to get a rear door to get past 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 comparable hack is different, it becomes a target, a prize for the poor guys. It will leak sooner or later. In a discussion at Black Hat this past summer, Apple's Ivan Krstic revealed that 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. .

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Each of the products in this roundup explicitly say that they have no back door, and that's as it should be. It will mean that if you encrypt an essential document and then forget the encryption password, then you've lost it for good.

Back in the day, in the event that you wanted to keep a document key you can 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 these options.

One type of product simply procedures files and folders, turning them into impenetrable encrypted versions of these. Another creates a virtual disc drive that, when open, behaves like any other drive on your system. When you lock the digital drive, each the files that you put into it's completely inaccessible. .

Similar to the digital drive solution, a few goods store your encrypted data in the cloud. This strategy requires 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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That is better It actually depends on how you plan on using encryption. If you are not sure, take advantage of the 30-day free trial offered by each one of those products to get a feel for the different options.

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

Some encryption products avoid this problem by encrypting the file in place, literally overwriting it on disc with an encrypted version. It is more common, however, to provide secure deletion as an option. If you choose something 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 retrieval works since the magnetic recording of data on a hard drive isn't actually digital. It is 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 document into it, and you get back what sounds 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 of the products accumulated here support AES. Even the ones that support other calculations tend to recommend using AES.

If you're an encryption expert, you might want 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 must 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 share it with anyone, enroll it in a key exchange, tattoo it on your foreheadwhatever you prefer. The other is personal, and should 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 that shows that 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 my link all the evidence you need. PKI support is less common than service for traditional symmetric algorithms. .

If you want to talk about a file with someone and your encryption application doesn't support PKI, there are other options for sharing. Many products enable 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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