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Best Encryption Software





silliman
I wonder which data, file/folder/disk, email, IM encryption software FriHost members recommend. Given the endless “cat and mouse” game that hackers pursue in cracking encryption code, I wonder how end-users can affordably acquire and use the best encryption software on the market without having to spend thousands or even hundreds of dollars.

The jargon is totally confusing to me. For example:
Transparent Data Encryption (TDE);
128bit Encryption;
On-the-fly encryption;
Data Encryption Standard (DES) A 64-bit block cipher;
Twofish: A new 256-bit block cipher, symmetric algorithm;
PGP uses a variety of algorithms, such as IDEA, RSA, DSA, MD5, and SHA-1 for providing encryption, authentication, message integrity, and key management (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1861836,00.asp?kc=PCRSS02129TX1K0000530 )

After having spent some time researching this topic, I am kind of leaning toward the PGP product; notwithstanding, I’m keenly interested in what folks think.
Animal
PGP was the original encryption software and was primarily concerned with communications (email) encryption. It used to be distributed for free, but more recently, it's become a commercial product that you need to buy.

If you want an all-in-one security suite, this is quite a good one. It has several advanced features, but the main two are the email encryption and the whole disk encryption. It should be noted, however, that it's quite expensive and that there are many (excellent) free alternatives.


Firstly, for email encryption, I highly recommend that you use Enigmail. Enigmail is an extension for Mozilla Tunderbird (so you may need to change your email client, but this is all completely free and has an easy "import" option to move all your mail and settings from other mail clients) that uses the GnuPG software. GnuPG is a free command line version equivalent of PGP, and is used by many (free) front-end programs. Enigmail is, in my opinion, the very best available - I have tried PGP, but found it a bit "heavy". Enigmail works as a plugin, and adds a single menu to Thunderbird. Once it's set up, all you need to do is click a button to sign or encrypt your email then you can hit send. It's really easy, and there are full instructions to set up and use Enigmail on my website.

For disk encryption, there is an excellent free alternative called TrueCrypt. TrueCrypt allows you to set up as many encrypted drives as you like, whatever size you like (hard-disk space dependant, of course) and even lets you choose the complexity of the encryption used. You can choose from single AES256 standard (which is extremely strong) to a virtually unbreakable triple encryption standard using multiple algorithms. These are all presented along with the average speeds of encryption/decryption, so you can decide if you want faster or more secure file encryption.

Another excellent encryption/privacy program is Mobility IM. This allows you to encrypt your Instant Messanging conversations so nobody can intercept the conversation, and it works with most IM networks (including MSN, Yahoo, Jabber, Google Talk, AIM, AOL etc) so you don't need to set up new accounts. If you and a contact are on different networks, you can still chat securely as long as you're both using Mobility IM.

So that's a quick run-down of the many free options available. If you use Outlook or Outlook Express, there are plugins available similar to Enignmail, but you may also want to go with PGP. If you use Mozilla products already then I highly recommend Enigmail. As I said, further info is on my site, including the pros and cons of different encryption algorithms (RSA vs DSA/El Gamal) and links to websites with real news stories proving you really should use encryption.
garvalf4
about truecrypt, do you know if there is a big / little endian issue between linux ppc and linux x86, like for bestcrypt ?
Does truecrypt sound the best for you ? Is it really reliable ?
I also wonder how the encrypted volumes support disk corruption. For ex if there is a single bit of data corrupted, will the whole volume be unavailable, or only the file under the corrupted bit ?
Animal
garvalf4 wrote:
about truecrypt, do you know if there is a big / little endian issue between linux ppc and linux x86, like for bestcrypt ?


You are able to use truecrypt on Linux and Windows - as far as I know, the truecrypt-created files are able to be opened on both Linux and Windows no matter what platform they were created on.


garvalf4 wrote:
Does truecrypt sound the best for you ? Is it really reliable ?


I've never had any problems with it so far. It's an advanced program and it allows you to create hidden volumes, you can mount a volume without it having a specific extension (so you could rename "encrypted volume.tc" to "game.exe" and you would still be able to encrypt / decrypt the files), and it even enables you to create portable volumes to use on a USB pendrive if Truecrypt is not installed on another computer you want to use. The only disadvantage to this is that you need administrator access to the computer.

garvalf4 wrote:
I also wonder how the encrypted volumes support disk corruption. For ex if there is a single bit of data corrupted, will the whole volume be unavailable, or only the file under the corrupted bit ?


The TrueCrypt User Guide gives you full details on this - http://www.truecrypt.org/docs/TrueCrypt%20User%20Guide.pdf

In the FAQ section, it states the following:

Q: What will happen when a part of a TrueCrypt volume becomes corrupted?
A: One corrupted byte usually corrupts the whole block in which it occurred (block size is either 8 or 16 bytes, depending on the block size of the encryption algorithm used). On legacy volumes, which are encrypted in CBC mode, data within each sector (sector is 512 bytes) are chained so when a block becomes corrupted, each successive block within the sector will become corrupted as well.
Due to hardware or software errors/malfunctions, files stored on a TrueCrypt volume may become corrupted. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you backup all your important files regularly (this, of course, applies to any important data, not just to encrypted data stored on TrueCrypt volumes). If you do not have enough free space to backup all files, we highly recommend that you at least backup the volume header, which contains the master key (size of the backup file will be 1024 bytes). If a volume header is damaged, the volume is, in most cases, impossible to mount. To backup a volume header, click Select Device or Select File and select the volume. Then click Tools -> Backup Volume Header. To restore the header, follow the same steps except the last where you
select Restore Volume Header.

So the short answer is that it shouldn't corrupt the whole volume, but if larger amounts of data become damaged, it potentially could.
silliman
For disk encryption, there is an excellent free alternative called TrueCrypt. TrueCrypt allows you to set up as many encrypted drives as you like, whatever size you like (hard-disk space dependant, of course) and even lets you choose the complexity of the encryption used. You can choose from single AES256 standard (which is extremely strong) to a virtually unbreakable triple encryption standard using multiple algorithms. These are all presented along with the average speeds of encryption/decryption, so you can decide if you want faster or more secure file encryption.

Aloha Animal,
Thanks for taking the time to write a very detailed and very informative descriptions of viable encryption software alternatives. I installed TrueCrypt and during installation it asked me to set up two folders -- the first one that's seen by all and serves as a decoy, the second hidden and used to keep those files from being examined. When I finished set up procedures, I tried to see or find the first folder by using the password that I had assigned to it, but I could not find a way to "see it" in under My Computer. In frustration, I decided to reformat my second hard drive only to find that Norton could detect the presence of a folder.

Conclusion: The "to be seen" folder was there, but somehow I couldn't get at it.

Um...
Animal
silliman wrote:
Conclusion: The "to be seen" folder was there, but somehow I couldn't get at it.

Um...


Right, to use a hidden volume, you must give the main volume and the hidden volume a different password. To open the normal volume, mount it as normal then enter the "unhidden" volume password. To mount the hidden volume, you need to dismount the unhidden volume.

To mount the hidden volume, you simply mount your standard volume as normal, but enter the hidden volume's password. You can not have the standard and hidden volumes mounted at the same time as far as I know.

Hope this helps!
dickyzin
What software can I use to just encrypt a file? TrueCrypt encrypts only drives right? Any free programs for encrypting and decrypting files and directories?
Shin
Try PGP.. It really is Pretty Good.. Smile
dickyzin
I tried bcrypt which works fine too.
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