Which features distinguish the many encryption software solutions that promise to protect your documents and personal information from prying eyes.
You don’t have to be a secret agent to want to keep all of your information hidden under a secret code. Whether you are concerned about cyberthieves, hackers, governmental surveillance, or your business competition, or you just like your privacy, there are plenty of ways to protect your documents. While you can use a VPN to encrypt your files when you send them and hide your internet activity, it won't do anything to safeguard your information when it isn't in transit. Fortunately, you can choose from many encryption software solutions to protect your documents and personal information from malicious or prying eyes. Here are a handful of the features you'll find in the best encryption software.
The best line of defense against hackers is to encrypt your files and folders. This means using a code or cipher to turn your information into a collection of garbled nonsense which can only be translated back into clear and comprehensible language again by someone who has the encryption key. There are various types of encryption that you could use, but the standard form recommended by the US government is AES. The majority of the best encryption software uses AES 128-bit or AES 256-bit, including 7-Zip, CertainSafe, and AxCrypt. Some software adds other types of encryption, such as Crypto-Expert which lets users choose from Blowfish, CAST, or 3DES encryption as well as the standard AES 256-bit.
An additional type of encryption is public key cryptography, or PKI, which makes it easier to share files securely without putting your encryption key at risk by sharing it with others. AxCrypt is one of the few encryption software solutions to offer PKI.
Once you’ve encrypted your file, you’ll need to decide what to do with the unencrypted plain original. There is no point in going to the trouble of encrypting your information if you’re just going to keep an unprotected version around, as well. Some encryption software rewrites over the original when it saves an encrypted version, but others such as AxCrypt and FolderLock include a very useful file shredder which securely deletes the original. You can use it on any other files that you want to permanently destroy, too.
Ease of Use
All the protection in the world isn’t going to be any good if you don’t actually use it. The easier it is to use your encryption software the more likely you are to remember to activate it when you need it. BitLocker and FileVault are among the easiest to use since they are built into the most recent versions of Mac and Windows 10 software. All you need to do is access your computer's settings to turn it on, and then it will continuously protect your entire disk.
If you don’t have full disk encryption included into your device, 7-Zip and VeraCrypt are also very easy to use options. VeraCrypt just needs to be downloaded and given a few details about your data to set up full automatic disk encryption. To use 7-Zip you only need to launch it and save the files or folders you want to encrypt in the relevant archive, add a password, and you’re done. While CryptoExpert can be confusing to set up, once it’s established, you can just drag a file to the vault, and it will be automatically encrypted when you lock it.
When you set out to encrypt your information, you can either choose all-encompassing protection that uses full disk encryption, or you can use individual encryption which can be applied selectively to just those files or folders that you want to safeguard. Full disk encryption is faster to set up and places protection over your entire device and everything on it. It saves you from worrying about whether or not you remembered to encrypt that important work document before you shut down. BitLocker, Symantec Endpoint Encryption, FileVault, and VeraCrypt all provide full disk encryption.
On the other hand, encryption software that lets you encrypt individual files and folders has the advantage of keeping them encrypted even when you send them to the cloud or to colleagues. The encryption stays with the files no matter where they travel. AxCrypt, CryptoExpert, and 7-Zip operate on this principle. It’s worth noting that not every encryption software will encrypt photos, videos, personal contacts, and other file types. DiskCryptor, FolderLock, and CertainSafe are among the ones that do.
Price and Free Trial
If you’re looking for free encryption software, you have plenty of options. VeraCrypt and DiskCryptor are both free encryption, and if you buy a new Windows 10 or Mac device, you'll find that BitLocker or FileVault are included. On the other hand, a paid encryption program is usually more reliable and comes with more features. CertainSafe, CryptoExpert, and FolderLock all offer 30-day free trials so that you can try before you buy. Prices range from around $3.50 per month for AxCrypt and the one-off download price of $39.99 for FolderLock to Symantec Endpoint Encryption’s price of $111 for a download purchase.
With employees regularly checking work emails on their smartphones and even composing important documents on phones and tablets, it’s important to consider mobile protection. Any device that stores critical information needs protection. AxCrypt and CryptoExpert are both good options for mobile encryption. Both offer mobile apps for Android and iOS along with full cloud storage protection. AxCrypt keeps files protected automatically when they are saved on Google Drive or DropBox, and CryptoExpert can protect all of the files, photos, videos, contacts, and recordings saved on your device, whatever that device is.
Before you shell out for encryption software, check that it’s compatible with your operating system. FileVault only works on Mac computers, for example, and BitLocker is solely for use with certain versions of Windows 10. There are not as many encryption softwa