Data Encryption Made Easy

You don’t need to be a Fortune 500 executive or a Secret Agent to feel the need to protect the data on your computer.  Furthermore, there is free software available that allows you to fully encrypt your PC’s hard drive using the latest technology and security standards.

With regards to the history of desktop computing, hard-drive encryption has been much of an unknown, one of those mythical fancy techno-widgets used by elite spies of cinema to foil the efforts of adversaries.  Today, data encryption, and even whole drive encryption is attainable by any computer user concerned with data security or any business traveler that is interested in protecting their private or business information while on the road.

Windows BitLocker (Free)

If you already own the Ultimate or Enterprise editions of Windows Vista or Windows 7 you have the option of implementing Windows BitLocker to fully encrypt your hard drives.  With “whole drive encryption” your information is useless to those who want to steal your data by stealing your hard drive and/or the computer attached to it.  This creates a huge deterrent for those who may be hoping to access many of the victim’s private details and perhaps selling them to a nefarious broker for purposes of identity theft.

If you do not own either the Ultimate or Enterprise editions of the Vista or Windows 7 operating systems, don’t fret, as there is anther very potent and free alternative.

TrueCrypt (Free)

By visiting the TrueCrypt official website , you can get your hands on the feature-rich alternative that is completely free.  No hassle.  No limitations.  TrueCrypt delivers a commercial caliber product with no cost to you, as advertised.  Through various links on their website, the makers of TrueCrypt present their visitors with an informal, yet illuminating education to their product and principles of whole drive encryption. They also offer tutorials with screen-shots to walk you through installations and configuration.

TrueCrypt will do some things that BitLocker won’t do, such as, create hidden data partitions and creating a dummy operating on that hidden data partition. The user can have two operating systems at his or her disposal, if you so desire.  The features of TrueCrypt definitely suit those who have a need for privacy.  But, why go through the trouble? What’s the risk? Where are the benefits?

Why Encrypt Your Data?

The answers to these questions depend on the nature of the user.  What type of user are you? Are you a company executive or perhaps you have a habit of taking your work home?  Do you have a laptop?  If so, is your laptop your primary computer?  Would your financial interests be at risk if your computer was lost or stolen?  Would your personal life be in shambles if there was a data-leak which exposed your personal habits?  Are you someone who lives a lifestyle which requires a high-degree of privacy?  Do you travel a lot for either business or pleasure?

For those with laptops, I consider this an absolute no-brainer.  TrueCrypt brings a marginal decrease in overall system performance.  Unless you’re a high-end gamer who needs every CPU cycle dedicated to your frag count, there isn’t much of a reason not to use this product.  For most of us, there is a low probability that we will encounter theft of a computer, however, most of us do know of someone who has experienced something of that nature.  Too many of us carry the mindset of “Security is for someone else.  I’m ok .“  Be purposively active in the safety and integrity of your data and systems.  It’s often a thankless job but we all have to do it.

The answers to these questions depend on the nature of the user.  What type of user are you? Are you a company executive or perhaps you have a habit of taking your work home?  Do you have a laptop?  If so, is your laptop your primary computer?  Would your financial interests be at risk if your computer was lost or stolen?  Would your personal life be in shambles if there was a data-leak which exposed your personal habits?  Are you someone who lives a lifestyle which requires a high-degree of privacy?  Do you travel a lot for either business or pleasure?

For those with laptops, I consider this an absolute no-brainer.  TrueCrypt brings a marginal decrease in overall system performance.  Unless you’re a high-end gamer who needs every CPU cycle dedicated to your frag count, there isn’t much of a reason not to use this product.  For most of us, there is a low probability that we will encounter theft of a computer, however, most of us do know of someone who has experienced something of that nature.  Too many of us carry the mindset of “Security is for someone else.  I’m ok .“  Be purposively active in the safety and integrity of your data and systems.  It’s often a thankless job but we all have to do it.

Final notes about TrueCrypt….

TrueCrypt will not protect you from the results of bad-mouse clicks which lead to malware infecting your system. If you leave your computer logged on and unlocked, TrueCrypt cannot enforce operating system security to protect your files and folders. Once you boot and authenticate to TrueCrypt, your file system is now as accessible as you configured it.

 

For More Information on TruCrypt
If you find the TrueCrypt website is too much of a dry read, then GRC.com’s Security Now podcast can get you up to speed on how this technology works. Steve Gibson (the show’s host) delivers explanations that benefit both computer noobs and IT pro’s.

Go here (http://www.grc.com/sn ) for the list of podcasts. TrueCrypt is featured in Episodes #41 and #133. Click here (http://media.grc.com/sn/sn-041.mp3 ) and here  (http://media.grc.com/sn/sn-133.mp3) for direct download links.

If you’re interested in the performance characteristics of TrueCrypt, go here (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/bitlocker-truecrypt-encryption,2587.html ) to see a side-by-side comparison with BitLocker.

 

Privacy Articles:

True Crypt – The main benefit of using TrueCrypt is that it’s all but impregnable. Just ask the FBI, who were forced to drop a case against Brazilian money launderer Daniel Dantas in 2010 because they couldn’t break TrueCrypt’s encryption. Another major benefit of TrueCrypt is that it places an emphasis on data integrity, forcing users to backup their encrypted files in the event that any data is corrupted when encrypted. TrueCrypt also features the ability to create hidden volumes on your disk which don’t show up ordinarily to other users that peruse your system.

Steganos Locknote – This is basically nothing more than an encrypted, secure text file.  It is self-contained, with the encrypting portion build right into the text file itself.  Safe and secure – there is no installation required.  It appears as a simple text file and opens to look just like a file in notepad.  The only difference is that the contents are encrypted and secure.  You can have as many of these different “Locknotes” on your computer as you want.  A great place to secure your username and password combinations since the file is encrypted, lightweight, and no delay in loading.

CCleaner is a very useful and user friendly software that allows for even novices to keep a healthy computer. The basic program is very small and free to download. Consider using CCleaner to maximize efficiency and productivity with any personal or family computer. The main cleaner is able to analyze and delete superfluous information. This includes things like temporary internet files, internet histories, cookies and recently visited URLs.

The registry cleaner allows users to scan for missing file extensions for preloaded programs. This can be used to help restore issues where a person may have accidentally deleted necessary files for the computer to run. There is also a feature which displays a Startup list where users can enable or disable various programs that initially start when the computer is first turned on. Another very convenient feature is the system restore that allows for a person to reset the settings to a previous date and time if the computer becomes infected with a virus or malware.

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