Category Archives: Encryption

Email That Vanishes – “Burn” Your Emails With Free Burn Note

imageEmail that vanishes – which is the driver behind Burn Note – is nothing new. I first came across similar types of services/applications/plug-ins, ten or more years ago. And, as is often the case with such specialty services, over time, all of them pulled their own vanishing act. Shazam! Gone – into the wild blue.

Frankly, I had no enthusiasm for disappearing email then – nor, am I keen on what the use of such a service might imply – now. * More on that, in a moment.

Nevertheless, I took a quick look at Burn Note – (a recent arrival in this arena – January 30, 2012), since I have little doubt, that there are circumstance in which disappearing email could have value. Exchanging passwords, for example, comes to mind as a practical use. On the other hand, some might say – an email that vanishes (in terms of its effect), is little different than a telephone call.

Still, you, or someone you know, may have practical reasons to engage this type of service. Personally, I fail to see the benefit, but……

From the site:

What’s a Burn Note?

A Burn Note is an online message which can be read only once by the recipient. Each Burn Note has a unique link that can be sent via email, text message, or other digital means. A Burn Note link takes the recipient to a cover page where they can be read and then destroys the Burn Note. Once a Burn Note has been read it cannot be viewed again.

When does a Burn Note get deleted?

By default each Burn Note has a timer after which time it will be automatically deleted. The timer starts as soon as the recipient begins viewing the message. If the sender chooses not to use a timer then the Burn Note will remain visible until the recipient manually deletes it or leaves the page.

Can the recipient copy and paste the contents of a Burn Note?

By default Burn Notes are created with the “Read out” display option which prevents the recipient from copy and pasting their contents. The “Keyhole” display option also prevents copy and paste of note contents. To allow the recipient to copy and paste the note contents use the “Plain text” display option.

Can the recipient take a screenshot of the contents of a Burn Note?

By default Burn Notes are created with the “Read out” display option which prevents the recipient from taking a screenshot of the entire note. It does this by breaking the note contents into short phrases and displaying them one at a time.

A quick walkthrough:

On the site, simply write and address your message (opening an account is not a requirement to use the service). Pay particular attention to the “Options” menu, since it is here that you will set the parameters for the vanishing “act”.

Note: The password (if you choose one), must be sent under separate cover. Impractical I think – but, there it is.

Burn Note 1

As you can see in the following screen capture – a link to the test message appeared in my inbox (within a few seconds). The recipient will have an opportunity to have the “what the hell is this?” query answered – by way of additional links.

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Clicking on the primary link took me onward to the Burn Note site.

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Since I had set the “no copying” parameters in the Options menu, I could not copy the message – nor could I capture a screen shot. Believe me – I tried – and tried.

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True to the service provider’s claim – the email was in fact – burned.

To checkout this service, go to: Burn Note

The technology behind this – now you see it; now you don’t – is relatively simple. It’s based on encrypted keys which gradually “fade away”. Simply put – no keys – no message.

* It would be foolhardy to assume that this type of service can’t, or won’t be used, for activities contrary to the Terms of Use. I can’t think of a current connected device technology which can’t be abused. Or, one which is being used exclusively,  for its intended purpose.

Update: A number of readers have advised me that, in fact, they have been able to capture message images using various applications, including CamStudio and Ashampoo Snap. It seems that this service might not be ready for prime time after all.

Update 2: The following screen capture submitted by regular reader Cliff R., clearly shows this service has an issue which needs to be recognized by the developer.

 

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Filed under Email, Encryption, Freeware, Recommended Web Sites, Windows Tips and Tools

How to Speed Up Your Downloads

Twiddling your thumbs while you download? Then read on. Guest writer Jared Scott describes a solution you may not yet have considered.

imageDo you ever find yourself in a rush for no reason?

Sometimes I find myself glaring at the microwave impatiently waiting, as if it is plotting against me in some attempt to keep me from eating.

It’s easy to forget that just having the ability to microwave something is an advance in food preparation and the time it takes.

Improvements in technology have spoiled us.

Our generation is on the go like never before. We are always mobile, always looking for the fastest option.

I get angry at my computer daily for almost the same reasons I do my microwave. While it is not withholding food from me, it is stealing my time. It keeps me hostage while it restarts, slowly returning to a functional state.

If you have ever used a computer this is something you have probably experienced and can relate to as well.

Another time consuming task that I prefer not to spend my time doing is downloading.

Have you ever downloaded something before and it seems to take an eternity?

This is another frustrating problem that is usually the result of a slow or weak internet connection. Sometimes I find myself counting with the “Percentage Complete” pop-up window as I download updates for my computer.

Downloads can take an even larger amount of time depending on the size of the file.

Sometimes I have left my computer downloading something overnight only to find it still in progress the next morning.

If we have these super fast Internet connections with all this bandwidth, it seems like a shame not to be able to use them to their full capabilities.

Usenet – The past is the future.

Most people remember Usenet as the original social network. The Facebook of its day.

The modern Usenet however is a powerful storehouse of information that allows you to download as fast as your internet connection will allow.

By providing you a direct (encrypted) connection to a commercial grade server farm, you can push the limits of your Internet connection.

Peer-to-peer technologies clog up your speed by sharing connections with others.

With Usenet, you are connecting directly to the source and are not sharing anything with anybody else.

Like a fine wine, Usenet has certainly gotten better with age. Investments made by premium providers have allowed Usenet to move more than 9 Terabytes of information on a daily basis.

It has adapted to meet the needs of our modern world.

When Usenet first began it was a much like a social network. Users posted messages almost like posts in a web-based forum.

Usenet evolved to incorporate the ability for its users to upload all types of audio, video and image files as well.

While the World Wide Web became the place we get our “news” from, Usenet transformed into a global repository for information.

Usenet survives in a fast paced world because it satisfies our need for speed.

Not many things last in this world.

But when something works, it works. Usenet hasn’t been around for 32 years for any other reason. It has continued to evolve and compete with emerging technologies.

And if you are looking for speed in downloading, Usenet is second to none.

Jared Scott is the public outreach manager for Binverse.com a leading Usenet provider. You can follow his updates on Twitter.

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Filed under downloads, Encryption, Geek Software and Tools, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Windows Tips and Tools

FlashToMyPC – Access Your PC Remotely

Carrying computer files with you while you’re on the go is a breeze – USB devices, for example, are perfect for the job. File portability doesn’t stop there though. With a little planning, you can access your files through a Cloud based storage solution – SkyDrive, DropBox, Box.net – readily come to mind.

Here’s the kicker though – both of the above require that you plan ahead so that the required files are stored either on the USB device, or resident in the Cloud. Despite this plan ahead strategy, you may still run into one of those “uh, oh” moments. Robert Burns hit the nail on the head when he wrote (pardon the misquote) – “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”.

If the file/s you need – then and there – are not on your USB device, or stored on a Cloud server, you’re probably looking at one of those “uh, oh” moments. Luckily, there are solutions to those almost inevitable – what am I going to do now times – that we’ve all experienced.

FlashToMyPC, developed by the folks at GigaTribe, which utilizes a good deal of the latter product’s technology, is a USB application which will allow you to access your entire hard drive from any Internet connected computer.

Here’s the lowdown:

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Graphic courtesy of FlashToMyPC. Click on graphic to expand to original size.

Step by Step installation

Select the USB device to which you will install the application.

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Once I had installed the application I took a quick look, using Windows Explorer, to ensure the executable installed correctly. Click on graphic to expand to original size.

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Launching the executable (from the USB device), will bring up the following screen so that the second part of the install can be completed ……

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the installation of FlashToMyPC on the selected machine.

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Setup continues with the usual user name and password input requirements.

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That’s it!

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From now on, just insert your Flash drive into an Internet connected machine to access your own Hard Drive.

For the security conscious user (and, who isn’t theses days), the developer has built-in a number of hardcore security features, including

Only your USB Flash Drive can access your computer.

Your Flash drive is identified via a unique combination of hardware ID, software ID, username and password.

All data exchanged between your flash drive and your computer is encrypted (AES 256).

Transferred files are downloaded directly onto your USB Flash Drive, leaving no trace on the computer.

After 3 failed password attempts, your computer access is suspended for 24 hours.

If you’ve lost your USB flash drive, you can delete your computer’s access to it.

Deleting a Flash drive’s access link is easy.

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System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7. According to the developer a Mac version

FlashToMyPC is not freeware but, you can download a 30 day free trial at the developer’s site. You may continue past the trial date, at an annual fee of $9.95 USD.

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Filed under Cloud Computing, Connected Devices, downloads, Encryption, File Sharing, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Networking, Portable Applications, Software, Software Trial Versions, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Free AxCrypt – Encrypt, Compress, Decrypt in Windows Explorer

imageI was introduced to AxCrypt by my good buddy Glenn Taggart, just over a year ago, and while I don’t currently use this application (I’m a diehard TrueCrypt fan), that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a sweet encryption application – and free, as well.

AxCrypt takes a different approach than many other encryption applications  inasmuch as it is not a stand alone executable application – instead, it’s fully integrated into Windows Explorer and is invoked from there. Integration into Windows Explorer makes it an ideal encryption application for less experienced Windows users.

As the following series of screen captures clearly show, AxCrypt integrates seamlessly into Windows Explorer’s context (right click) menu.

Right clicking on the selected file/folder in Windows Explorer, followed by selecting “AxCrypt – Encrypt”, begins the process of encryption.

Click on any graphic to expand to original size.

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The next step requires the user to enter a protective password.

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In the following graphic (following successful encryption) you’ll notice the green AxCrypt icon, indicating that encryption is now in force.

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The decryption process is ever bit as simple –it’s virtually a mirror image of the encryption process.

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The following graphic illustrates the decryption password box.

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In the following graphic you’ll notice the green AxCrypt icon no longer shows – indicating that decryption has been successful.

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Bonus: Built in file Shredder illustrated.

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Fast facts:

Right-click integration with Windows Explorer makes AxCrypt the easiest way to encrypt individual files in Windows.

Double-click integration makes it as easy to open, edit and save encrypted files as it is to work with unencrypted files.

Many additional features, but no configuration required, just install it and use it.

AxCrypt encrypts files that are safely and easily sent to other users via e-mail or any other means. Self-decrypting files are also supported, removing the need to install AxCrypt to decrypt.

Available languages: English, Danish, Swedish, German, Dutch, Hungarian, Spanish, French, Italian and Norwegian.

System requirements: Windows 2000, 2003, XP, Vista, 2008, Win 7 (32 and 64 bit system support).

Download at: Developer’s site (Axantum Software AB).

It’s not always possible to cover all the features and benefits of an application in a short review article – additional information is available at the developer’s FAQ page.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Encryption, Encryption Software, Freeware, New Computer User Software Tools, Open Source, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

TrueCrypt – Free Encryption To The Max

imageSophisticated and  aware computer users know, that financial data and other confidential information, can easily be subject to intrusive viewing by those not authorized to do so.

Some examples of how this might occur:

Internet malware attack: Increasingly, statistics reinforce the fact that financial data continues to be targeted by hackers/information thieves, for the purpose of identity theft.

Contrast that reality with these facts; there is no such thing as a totally secure Internet connected computer. All Internet connected computers are subject to attack and compromise.

Lost or stolen Laptop: How often have we read the following – 200,00 (insert your own number here), bank account numbers, Social Insurance Numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth were on a laptop stolen/lost earlier this week.

In too many of these cases, negligently, the data is unencrypted. Certainly Laptop theft or loss is not restricted to organizations; it can just as easily happen to you.

Lost or stolen USB drive: Since USB flash drives are so portable, you can take a drive virtually anywhere. Just like most items that are portable and that you carry with you, this type of drive can be lost, or stolen.

To reduce or eliminate the security threat of sensitive data exposure then, the most prudent course of action is data encryption. Essentially, data encryption is a secure process for keeping your sensitive and confidential information private. It’s a process by which bits of data are mathematically jumbled with a password-key. The Encryption process makes the data unreadable unless, or until, decrypted.

TrueCrypt is an outstanding free open source software application (one I have been using for years), for establishing and maintaining an on-the-fly-encrypted volumes.

On-the-fly encryption simply means that data are automatically encrypted, or decrypted, just before they are loaded or saved, without any user intervention.

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TrueCrypt uses 11 algorithms for encrypting private files in a password-protected volume. You can store your encrypted data in files, partitions, or on a portable storage device such as a USB flash drive.

Once your encrypted files are mounted to a local drive with your password or key, you can manipulate those files, i.e. you can open, copy, delete, or modify them. When you have completed working on those files, you then dismount the volume and the files are then safely secured from unauthorized access.

Indicative of this application’s popularity is the fact that it is downloaded tens of thousands of times each day, across the Internet.

Fast Facts:

Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk

Encrypts an entire hard disk partition or a storage device such as USB flash drive

Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent

Provides two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password – Hidden volume – No TrueCrypt volume can be identified (volumes cannot be distinguished from random data)

Encryption algorithms: AES-256, Serpent, and Twofish. Mode of operation: XTS

Ability to encrypt a system partition/drive (i.e. a partition/drive where Windows is installed) with pre-boot authentication (anyone who wants to gain access and use the system, read and write files, etc., needs to enter the correct password each time before the system starts

Pipelined operations increasing read/write speed by up to 100% (Windows)

Mac OS X version

Graphical user interface for the Linux version of TrueCrypt

XTS mode of operation – XTS is faster and more secure than LRW

As I said, I have been using TrueCrypt for a number of years, and I have developed a lot of confidence in this outstanding application. If you determine that encryption of your sensitive data is a priority, I highly recommend that you give TrueCrypt a try.

How effective is TrueCrypt? If you have any doubts as to how effective TrueCrypt really is, then read this article. FBI hackers fail to crack TrueCrypt:

The FBI has admitted defeat in attempts to break the open source encryption used to secure hard drives seized by Brazilian police during a 2008 investigation.

System Requirements: Windows 7/Vista/XP (64 bit), Mac OS X, and Linux

Download at: TrueCrypt

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Encryption, Encryption Software, Encryption Software Alternatives, flash drive, Freeware, Open Source, Software, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

EncryptOnClick – Encrypt and Decrypt Files and Folders With A Few Clicks

The article I posted a few days ago – Free Secret Disk – Keep Your Secret Computer Files “Secret”, led to a more than a few reader questions on additional free encryption applications.

So, I’ve retested the updated versions of a number of free encryption applications I’ve recommended in the past few years, and I’ll post on these in the coming days – starting today with EncryptOnClick

EncryptOnClick ( last updated March 08, 2011), is a free program that lets you securely encrypt and decrypt files/folders. The program is very simple to use, and features military grade 256-bit AES encryption.

After you have launched the application, simply select the target file/folder you want to encrypt.

Following the easy interface, type a password for that file/folder which will then be encrypted. To open the encrypted file/folder at a later date, you must type the correct password.

In the following example I’ve chosen to encrypt a folder by clicking on the Folder button…

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which prompted me to browse and select the target folder.

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The application took approximately one minute to encrypt this 220 MB folder and its sub folders.

In the following graphic you can see that the file I’ve highlighted, within the encrypted folder, can only be accessed through EncryptOnClick.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

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Decrypting the selected folder is just as simple and straightforward.

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In the following graphic  you can see that the file I’ve highlighted within the folder (following  decrypting), can now be accessed normally.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

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Fast facts:

A very secure encryption and decryption method is used (256-bit AES encryption)

Files are both compressed & encrypted, which results in a smaller file

Password protected

Will encrypt single files or all files in a folder

Very simple to use interface

Can be used on a USB key

Fully Unicode enabled so filenames in any language can be encrypted

Will encrypt, decrypt, compress, and uncompress files which can also be opened and decrypted using third party programs like WinZip 9 – provided the correct password is used

Will detect if you’re decrypting a file that is in a temporary folder, and if so, will prompt you to see if you would like to decrypt it into a different folder

Command line parameters can be used

Complete help file

Tip: Run on a Flash Drive by copying the files EncryptOnClick.exe, EncryptOnClick.exe manifest, ExceedZip.dll to a named folder on the Flash Drive.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 and NT.

Download at: Download.com

Tomorrow: Free Encrypt Stick reviewed.

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Filed under Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Encryption, Encryption Software, Freeware, Privacy, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Control A Remote Computer (And More), With Free TeamViewer

image If you’re a person who’s often asked by friends, to help them, their friends, their neighbors, ……..the list goes on, to reconstruct a computer that is not responding appropriately, has become loaded with malware, etc., then free TeamViewer is worth taking a look at.

TeamViewer connects to any PC, or server, within a few seconds; which allows you to control a remote PC as if you were sitting right in front of it. Best of all, a typical (non geek) computer user using TeamViewer, doesn’t need to know anything about ports or protocols, or any other complicated Firewall jargon.

Some of my friends, who are only moderately techno competent, have used this neat little tool to rescue their family’s and friend’s computers. Most have commented that it feels just as if they were working side by side with the remote user, on the same PC. I second that perception. Awesome!

Running this free screen sharing/remote control application, is simple – perhaps the easiest I’ve used. The user interface is plain, functional, and uncomplicated – as illustrated.

Click graphic to expand to original.

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Since the application has considerable functionality, over and above remote tech support, including file-transfer and business collaboration, there are substantial options available. In the following screen capture, I’ve chosen to illustrate Remote control options.

Click graphic to expand to original.

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To get up and running:

Have your friend/partner/associate etc, download, install and run TeamViewer – then email you the session ID and Password, once they have launched the application.

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Here’s an example of TeamViewer at work.

The following screen captures illustrate that I’ve taken remote control of TeamViewer’s test computer, by entering the session ID and password provided by TeamViewer – acting as the friend/partner/associate.

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Once in control, I opened the remote machine’s WordPad and did a little typing.

Click on graphic to expand

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Once you’ve installed TeamViewer, you can do the same thing to give yourself a little practice.

Fast facts:

One solution for everything – While most competitors offer different packages for remote support, remote administration, training and sales (and also charge for them…) TeamViewer is the one-stop solution for everything you need: TeamViewer includes all modules in one simple and very affordable package.

File transfer – TeamViewer comes with integrated file transfer that allows you to copy files and folders to and from a remote partner – which also works behind firewalls

Highest security standard – TeamViewer is a very secure solution. All versions feature completely secure data channels with key exchange and AES (256 Bit) session encoding, the same security standard used by https/SSL.

Remote support without installation – With TeamViewer you can remotely control any PC anywhere on the Internet. No installation is required, just run the application on both sides and connect – even through tight firewalls.

Remote presentation of products, solutions and services – TeamViewer allows you to present your desktop to a partner. Share live demos, products, and presentations over the Internet within seconds.

Works behind firewalls – The major difficulties in using remote control software are firewalls and blocked ports, as well as NAT routing for local IP addresses. If you use TeamViewer you don’t have to worry about firewalls: TeamViewer will find a route.

Optimized performance – Whether you have a LAN or dial-up connection, TeamViewer optimizes display quality and speed depending on your network connection.

Encryption – TeamViewer includes full encryption, based on RSA private-public key exchange and AES (256 Bit) session encoding. This technology is based on the same standards as https/SSL and is considered completely safe by today’s standards.

Access Protection – In addition to the PartnerID TeamViewer generates a session password that changes with every software start to provide additional security against unauthorized access to a remote system.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Win 7, Mac, Linux, Mobile systems.

Download at:  Team Viewer

Note: A portable version is also available.

Bottom line: If you have the skills, and you have the opportunity to provide tech support to your family or friends, then TeamViewer might just be the tool you’ve been looking for.

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Filed under Connected Devices, downloads, Easy Computer Networking, Encryption, flash drive, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Mobile Applications, Networking, Portable Applications, Remote Tech Support, Software, USB, Windows Tips and Tools