One of my greatest fears has little to do with terrorists threats to the homeland. It’s not easy to prevent so it will happen. My fear has more to do with government attempts to keep citizens safe by removing freedoms we enjoy.
Today we can encrypt our Messages, encrypt our files, and keep our personal information– whatever it may be and for whatever purpose– free from intrusion by criminals, hackers, terrorists, and even the government. I think those freedoms are under attack so I’m collecting apps to help keep what’s mine, mine.
The simple encryption tools Mac and iPhone users have today were not always available to the masses. Up until a few decades ago, encryption was considered munitions and if you encrypted your own files you were subject to prosecution. Thankfully, those days are gone, encryption apps live and prosper in the wild, many are free, but for how long.
Here’s a quick look at five easy ways– most of them free– to encrypt your files, photos, documents, music, videos, or whatever else that you don’t want to share with others, or whatever might be incriminating to authorities you do not trust.
FileVault – This is the Mac’s built-in encryption system. Open System Preferences, select Security & Privacy, select FileVault. Yes, your Mac can encrypt everything and only you can have the key to open those files.
WARNING: You will need your login password or a recovery key to access your data. A recovery key is automatically generated as part of this setup. If you forget both your password and recovery key, the data will be lost.
Sounds serious enough to be safe, no?
Disk Utility – This encryption and storage method requires a few more steps than FileVault, obviously, but it works well. Open System Preferences, then select Utilities, then Disk Utility. You’ll need to create a Disk Image from the Menubar selections, then fill it with files and folders you want to store, then add encryption and a password, but those files cannot be opened or viewed without the password. Choose wisely.
There are many other such encryption options, so let me share two others that I like. One is drop dead simple to use, works well on both Mac and Windows PCs, does not have backdoor access so the F.B.I. may not appreciate your efforts, but free is free.
Encrypto – If there’s an easier way to select and encrypt a bunch of files or folders of files, I don’t know what it is. Encrypto is free, available on the Mac App Store (also for Windows, but it decrypts Mac encryption, too), and uses AES 256-bit encryption so quantum computing must be a thing for anyone can guess the password you select.
Check out my recent article on encryption and file shredding.
Cryptomator – Here’s another encryption app that makes it simple to protect files you want hidden from everyone except God. Cryptomator for Mac, Windows, and Linux is donationware. Cryptomator for iPhone and Android costs a few dollars. Yet, Cryptomator works differently because it encrypts files stored somewhere on cloud storage services that you view from your Mac– Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and other services which sync with a local file on your Mac. It also uses AES 256-bit encryption, but goes a bit more by encrypting file names, and obfuscating the folder structure. Oh, and you can use it standalone on your Mac, too. Free.
These are just a few of the easy ways we can use encryption to store files away from prying eyes, whether they belong to hackers, spooks, or courts who go fishing. These encrypted files or folders or vaults do not have a backdoor key, and can be stored on multiple devices at the same time.
There may come a time when such encryption is no longer legal, or must require backdoor access, or you must provide the password under penalty of death or imprisonment, but for now you’re as safe as the criminals the government wants to find.