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7 Free Encryption Tools To Keep Your Data Safe From Prying Eyes

Whether you’re a high flying executive or a stay-at-home mom, you have likely given a good amount of thought to your privacy. Do you ambitiously entertain notions of anonymity and confidentiality or simply hope to retain some control over the information you enter into your computer and send over the wires? Here's something to get you started.
The Tor Network
This is likely to be a topic that I will revisit on occasion, so I will be brief. We all want to be uniquely privy to our own information while at the same time preventing others from not just accessing it but also making changes without permission. If only there was a tool that could do both, so we wouldn’t have to become computer scientists. Well, you’re in luck, because that tool is called “encryption” and if you choose the right software, it may protect the data you hold dear against prying eyes.

For starters, here are 7 aspects of your computer life that you might want to retain some measure of control over. Each one is briefly and inadequately described here, but feel free to click through and read up on it. The Windows-based software mentioned here is simply a collection of programs I have used in the past. I’m not associated with any of them, nor do I guarantee that they will provide you with any measure of security, but they serve the purpose of this post: to give you an idea of the diverse layers of protection you can use to scramble your data communications.

  1. File Encryption – Put a password on your files and scramble them with strong encryption. 7-Zip is a good alternative to commercial tools like WinZip.

  2. Disc, folder and USB encryption – Give TrueCrypt a try. It’s a bit technical, but you can handle it. Speaking of layers, this software has a really neat way to mix encryption algorithms (and give you the satisfaction of imagining supercomputers as they struggle to crack it).

  3. Email Encryption – A lack of standard has made this one of the most difficult security tricks to pull off. If you use an email client, be sure to enable SSL connections between your computer/device and the mail server. To have any measure of confidentiality beyond the server however, you will need to install some kind of software, or simply use a program like 7-Zip to encrypt your attachments. The catch? Both you and the recipient need to be using the same encryption method. Give these a try, in increasing order of technical difficulty: free browser plug-ins, Enlocked, GPG.

  4. Instant Messaging & Teleconferencing – We know that Skype is encrypted and it’s still a favorite of mine because of the elegance of its infrastructure (but be careful with it in corporate environments where it might set itself up to use your computer as a node in its network). If you prefer something else, give Cryptocat and RetroShare a try. Wanna chat over say, Facebook? Give Jitsi a try.

  5. Internet Browsing – Although not a fool-proof method, Tor is your best bet at anonymizing your traffic right now. There are also tons of other options for encrypted VPNs and commercial proxy that will eventually make your head spin and frustrate you by slowing down your Internet browsing.

  6. Keystroke Encryption – How do you defeat malware that watches you as you type? Keyscrambler is a cool tool that does it in the background.

  7. Encrypted Routing – The requests for sites and other Internet destinations should not be available to companies that you don’t trust, such as telcos. So encrypting those queries is what you want to do with DNScrypt.

That should keep you busy for a little while. Have fun storming the castle
Sort Comments
catherine | 06/17/2013 14:30:59
Thanks so much for common-sense solutions in the various settings where communication is at risk of surveillance. Very timely.

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