For Your Eyes Only
While a workstation or server may cost $1,000, it is the data stored on those computers that represents the true value of your information assets. With firewalls and intrusion protection systems guarding our machines, most of us feel comfortable storing information on our computers, assuming it is safe from harm. But is it truly secure? Protecting data stored on your hard drive from prying eyes means keeping it hidden from access and view. Fortunately, there are veritably dozens of products available to help you with this critical task.
One way to secure data is to encrypt it. Encryption has been used for centuries to keep information safe from snooping eyes (or ears, in some instances). Cryptainer LE (www.cypherix.com) allows you—using 128-bit encryption—to fashion a “storage box” right on your PC that won’t interfere with how you normally operate. This software establishes a new set of virtual drive letters and files are encrypted “on the fly” as they are added to the drive. Other media like USB drives and CDs (including external and removable) can also house the storage containers you create. As long as you’re logged into the Cryptainer PE interface, you can access the drive letter through Windows Explorer, just as you would any other drive. Other users will no longer be able to access the files in the secure drive if the program is terminated. However, you (or authorized users) will still be able to gain access at any time by using your password to log in.
Another powerful file encryption program is AxCrypt. This easy-to-use program integrates directly with Windows Explorer. Using U.S. government and Internet AES-128 and SHA-1 algorithm standards, AxCrypt allows you—with point-and-click technology—to encrypt, decrypt, view and edit any files. After you’re through editing a file, you can re-encrypt it. AxCrypt also supports the creation of self-decrypting files. It provides secure deletion/wiping of files and “temporaries,” validation of cryptographic data integrity, separate key and data encrypting keys, and also features a secure internal memory handler. For more information, visit axcrypt.sourceforge.net.
For Windows XP/2003 Server/2000/NT4, there’s the affordable Hide Folder, which promises military-strength encryption solutions for your security needs. Hide Folder makes your private data, file groups, PC settings, folders and disk drives inaccessible (or read-only) to local, network or Internet users, yet makes them instantly accessible to you when you need them. Hide Folder enables you to lock down your Windows Desktop, Control Panel and other settings so that the only access is via password. For more information, visit www.hide-folder.com.
Another program you may consider is CleverCrypt Enhanced by Quantum Digital Security Pty. Ltd. (www.qdsecurity.com/clevercrypt.html). While not freeware, this handy program allows you to create 1,280-bit encrypted hard drives up to 40 GB using secure Blowfish, AES (U.S. government standard) and Twofish encryption. If you find it difficult to develop passwords, fear not as CleverCrypt has a built-in random password creator to help you create secure passwords. Supporting up to four passwords, CleverCrypt Enhanced is easy to use and offers fast encryption that is transparent to the user and will run on any computer using Microsoft Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP/2003. At only $29.95, CleverCrypt Enhanced is easy on the wallet.
One final note, if you are a user of Windows 2000 or Windows XP and use the NTFS file system, you have the ability to encrypt and decrypt files and folders without the need for third-party software. Visit www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/security/learnmore/encryptdata.mspx for detailed instructions on how to do so.
Douglas Schweitzer, A+, Network+, i-Net+, CIW, is an Internet security specialist and the author of “Securing the Network From Malicious Code” and “Incident Response: Computer Forensics Toolkit.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.