Why? If everyone is out to get you, paranoia is the right attitude to employ. So, if you have some incriminating, highly personal, or extremely valuable information sitting around on your Mac, it might be wise to hide it somewhere safe. That means encryption and passwords. Sounds ominous, no?
Encrypt Free Or Not
At a basic level, and the one that pertains to Mac users with something to hide, encryption is a process of encoding information in a way that makes it available only to authorized parties. Encryption of personal data is all the rage these days. Apple’s iPhone and iPad under iOS 8 and iOS 9 are encrypted and government spooks and politicians (is there a difference?) are upset.
Why? Because spooks want unfettered access to your private information, you know, just in case. And, besides, if you have nothing to hide, why bother to encrypt it. That’s a shallow argument which doesn’t carry much water these days, but a little paranoia can’t hurt, right?
Enter two basic ways to encrypt some of your personal information. The first one is not a recommended Mac app (and there are many, many encryption apps from which to choose), but is indicative of the genre.
It’s an affordable utility called Encryption Buddy and it’s easy to setup and use, it works on older Macs, and is just plain drag and drop simple. In other words, it’s official. Encryption is easy on a Mac.
Simply drag a folder of files you want to encrypt onto Encryption Buddy, enter a password (and, do not, ever, lose it) and you get an encrypted file, where the contents are safe and secure using DES3 encryption.
Encryption Buddy costs just a few dollars but your Mac already has an encryption option built-in to OS X. It’s called Disk Utility and you’ll find the app in the Applications > Utilities folder.
Open it up, select New Image from the toolbar at the top. Add a Name to the disk image. Set the size to hold the files you want to hide. Set the Encryption level (256-bit AES is good), and click the Create button. You’ll be prompted to create a password for the disk image. That’s it. You’ve just created an encrypted disk image to hide all your incriminating files.
The Mac App Store has a few dozen encryption apps; some worthy, others less so, but the process is much the same. If anything, you’ll sleep better at night knowing that Russian and Chinese hackers and government spooks won’t be able to see what you just hid without breaking your fingers or threatening to send you to Guantanamo Bay.
One More Thing™: If you are really on a tight budget and Disk Utility has you completely flummoxed, try Encrypto. It’s both free and easy.