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

Why wouldn't Apple help Since the moment a rear door or similar hack exists, it becomes a goal, a prize for the bad guys. It will flow 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 them, but the bad guys can't get in either. .

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All the products in this roundup explicitly state they have no back door, and that is as it ought to 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 maintain a document secret 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 those options.

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

Similar to the virtual drive solution, some goods store your encrypted data in the cloud. This approach demands extreme caution, obviously. Encrypted data 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're not sure, take advantage of the 30-day free trial provided by each of these products to have a sense of the different options.

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

Some encryption products prevent this problem by encrypting the file in location, literally overwriting it on disk using an encrypted version. It's more common, however, to offer secure deletion as an option. If you select a product that lacks this attribute, 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 recovery works since the magnetic click resources recording of data on a hard drive isn't actually digital. It is more of a waveform. In simple terms, the process involves nulling out the known information and reading around the edges of what is left.

An encryption algorithm is like a black box. Dump a document, image, or other file into it, and you get back what sounds like gibberish. Run that gibberish back through the box, using the 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 all the products accumulated here support AES. Even those that support other calculations tend to recommend using AES.

If you are an encryption expert, you might prefer another algorithm, see here Blowfish, possibly, or even the Soviet government's GOST. For the average consumer, 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 a key exchange, tattoo it official source 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 make a digital signature which proves your document came from you and hasn't been modified. How Exactly To encrypt it with your private key. The fact your public key decrypts it's 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 tool 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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