Encryption

january 3, 2003

Welp, I wanted to encrypt some of my files on my removeable USB storage, so I spent some time looking for a good encryption software. I wanted a piece of encryption software had two criteria: 1) It had to support MacOS X and Windows XP because of my iBook, desktop, and work machine; and 2) It should be free. The first piece that I found was PGP Freeware. It is actually a pretty good piece of software and fit both my criteria, but it was heavy: It had a 5MB download and had lots of stuff to configure and get running. Plus it had to install onto the system -- not a good thing when all I want is something light and can run on other systems without trouble. So, that went out the window. I came up with another find at sourceforge.net, ccrypt. This is the solution that I'm going to be using to encrypt my sensitive data. It is small (a few kilobytes) and does not need to be installed. It not only supports MacOS X and Windows XP, but also supports DOS and a few flavors of UNIX. The only drawback is that it is a completely command-line utility -- not good for most Windows and MacOS X users (who, I'm guessing love the GUI), but not a terrible disaster for me. It's fast and it runs directly off the USB flashdrive. It uses AES (strong encryption that the government is now using) to encrypt the files and I can do a batch encryption of a whole directory at the command-line. I did find a GUI Windows-shell integrated encryption software for all of you who run any flavor of Windows and want something easy to use. It's called [url=http://axcrypt.sourceforge.net/" target="__axcrypt]AxCrypt[/url]. It allows for right-click encryption of a file. AxCrypt also compresses the file when it encrypts it to save diskspace (cool!) But the real feature of AxCrypt is that the files that it creates are double-clickable. What does that mean? Well, for instance with PGP Freeware I could encrypt a file and it would sit there. When I wanted to edit, say for instance, a Word document, I decrypt it and it gets written to disk as a file (along with the remaining encrypted version). When I'm done editting, I delete the old encrypted one and re-encrypt the new one. A lot of steps. With AxCrypt though, it is simple, the file is encrypted once. When I double-click an encrypted file to open and edit, it decrypts it and the file opens. When I close the file AxCrypt automagically re-encrypts it on-the-fly back into the file -- taking care of all the extra steps. Nice! If you're going to be only using encryption with a Windows system, AxCrypt is the way to go!