The Norman Transcript

March 16, 2014

Batten down the hatches with encryption, Part 2


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The best way to protect computerized information from the bad guys is to use encryption. Whether it’s financial and medical information stored on your computer or private data sent across the Internet in an email, encryption transforms your personal information into a secret code that can only be unlocked if you have the key.

Don’t be put off by any of the unfamiliar terminology that may be involved. Using encryption does not require a degree from James Bond University or permission from the CIA. Many modern encryption products are so easy to use that, yes, even cave dwellers can use them.

When securing your data, there are two main areas where encryption should be used, known as “data at rest” and “data in motion.” “Data at rest” is information that is simply being stored on hard drives, flash drives, etc. “Data in motion” is information that is in transit between devices, such as across a network or the Internet.

There are many good products that will encrypt data at rest and most of them work around the same set of principals, which are similar to installing a wall safe in your home.

The first step is to create an encrypted folder or “container;” this is your safe. Next, you assign the folder a password or “encryption key;” this is the combination to your safe. Finally, you put items that you want to protect into your safe, i.e., your encrypted folder.

From then on, anyone who wants to access those files that you have protected will have to know your special encryption key, which, of course, you will keep secret. It really is that simple.

One product that I like for data at rest is called Cryptainer LE, which can be found at cypherix.com/cryptainerle. Cryptainer LE, perfect for home users, is the free version of Cypherix’s more industrial-strength encryption products and is easy-as-pie to use.

Like most encryption products, Cryptainer LE also will let you protect files on removable flash drives, portable hard drives and even CDs. Those in business settings will probably want to opt for Cypherix’s more powerful products which, starting at $30, are a bargain.

Mac (and Windows) users should check out Truecrypt at truecrypt.org. While Truecrypt is not as drop-dead easy to use as Cryptainer, it’s not terribly difficult to use either, and is probably the most secure encryption solution for the Apple Mac.

Data in motion needs attention too, specifically, email. Global security company Comodo offers a wonderful (and free) way of encrypting email with a product called Comodo Free Secure Email Certificate. This is easy to install and, once configured, provides transparent and automatic email security.

The product is designed to work with dedicated email programs such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, etc. Folks who want to use SecureEmail but are used to visiting a website and using webmail will have to start using a “real” email program.

Books can be (and have been) written about file encryption and there are numerous encryption methods available; too many to mention here. This should be enough information, though, to get you started and thinking about the subject.

Home users will want to protect their important QuickBooks and TurboTax files, as well as financial and medical information. Many businesses, such as those in the legal, financial and healthcare industries, are now required by law to use due diligence in protecting sensitive personal and private information; encryption is how it’s done.

Dave Moore has been performing computer consulting, repairs, security and networking in Oklahoma since 1984. He also teaches computer safety workshops for public and private organizations. He can be reached at 919-9901 or davemoore

computers.com.

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