Tag Archives: Encryption

Beat Obama’s Bandits With TrueCrypt Free (Open-Source) Encryption

The so called “War on Terror” has long since lost its luster and should be appropriately reclassified as The War of Terror. The U.S. has been singularly impudent in terrorizing the terrorists but instead, it has managed to terrorize the rest of the world using a system of surveillance schemes that have gone off the board. Chalk one up for Al Qaeda – the only winners in this debacle.

In the meantime, Americans continue to live in fear – trading away freedoms for security in a war that is simple unwinnable. Obama, despite his assurances that he would “fight terrorism while maintaining our civil liberties” has been a principle mover in this assault on democracy.

And, the master of the reversal has more –

Obama, in a 2008 election sound bite, drew a sharp contrast with the Bush administration which he proclaimed, offered Americans “a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.” And for good measure – for stooping “to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.” It’s a surreal world we live in, is it not?

But why be satisfied with my ramblings? Here’s the video.

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As America continues its slide into Fascism (eagerly joined in the venture by Canada, Australia, the U.K. and countless other self-advertised “democracies”), the justified expectation held by these governments is – you – yes, you – will take no active part in expressing your outrage at the escalating intrusions into your private life. Sadly, the undermining of democracy, or more to the point, democracy as we though we knew it, continues apace.

As a consequence (hardly the only consequence, of course), encryption technology is once again in the spotlight. And no, using encryption does not mean that one has something to hide.

Sophisticated 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.

Putting Obama and his bad boys aside, here are 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.

It happens to us all: Just this past week, I lost not only my house keys (first time ever) – but the USB key attached to the keychain. If you guessed that the drive was encrypted – take a bow.   Smile

TrueCrypt:

TrueCrypt is an outstanding free open source software application for establishing and maintaining an on-the-fly-encrypted volume. On-the-fly encryption simply means that data are automatically encrypted, or decrypted, just before they are loaded or saved – without any user intervention. The program automatically and transparently encrypts in real time.

No data stored on an encrypted volume can be read (decrypted) without the correct password/key file or correct encryption keys. The entire file system is encrypted (i.e., file names, folder names, contents, free space, Meta data, etc.).

Files can be copied to and from a mounted TrueCrypt volume just like they are copied to/from any normal disk (for example, by simple drag-and-drop operations). When you turn off your computer, the volume will be dismounted and files stored in the volume will be inaccessible and encrypted. You may of course, manually dismount the volume.

TrueCrypt offers a number of options – you can store your encrypted data in files, partitions, or on a portable storage device such as a USB flash drive.

Installation is simple and straightforward – no gotchas here. Lots of steps – but easy steps.

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If you choose “Keyfiles”, be sure you understand the ramifications. This is an extra security step which has limited application for a home user. You do not need to select this option.

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And – Win 8’s File Explorer reports that the volume has been setup successfully. If you expand the graphic below (click), you’ll also notice my first TrueCrypt volume on this HD from May 9, 2006.

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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)

I’ve 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: Win 8, Win 7, Vista, XP, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Download at: TrueCrypt

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Filed under downloads, Encryption Software, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Open Source, Software, Utilities

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.

image

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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

Hard Drive Kidnapping – GpCode Ransomware On The Attack Again!

imageWhen we think of kidnapping, extortion, or blackmail, I think it’s safe to say, not many of us would consider our computer files being a likely victim. That is, unless we were familiar with a particular form of malware known as Ransomware.

Ransomware is a particular vicious form of malware – malware that encrypts the victim’s files, and then demands a monetary ransom to decrypt those kidnapped files.

Once again the Ransomware Trojan Gpcode, first encountered some years back by Kaspersky Lab, is on the loose. This is the fourth release of GpCode that we’ve covered here in the last few years, and as expected, this version continues to use RSA-1024 and AES-256 encryption.

As opposed to past variants though, this time around GpCode doesn’t delete files after encryption. Instead, to make it more difficult for a victim to recover from the attack – files are overwritten.

Once GpCode has finished its nasty work, the victim is presented with the following Desktop message.

Followed by a ransom note via Notepad, which is launched automatically by GpCode. The ransom note demands payment of a $120 fee.

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Preliminary indications are; the attack vector is a malicious PDF which when opened, downloads and installs, the ransomware.

Vitaly Kamluk over at Kaspersky Lab’s Securelist site, offers the following advice – “If you think you are infected, we recommend that you do not change anything on your system as it may prevent potential data recovery if we find a solution.

It is safe to shutdown the computer or restart it despite claims by the malware writer that files are deleted after N days – we haven’t seen any evidence of time-based file deleting mechanism. But nevertheless, it is better to stay away from any changes that could be made to the file system which, for example, may be caused by computer restart”.

Reduce the possibilities of infection by this and other malware, by taking the following precautions:

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable hidden filename extensions

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible

Disable scripting features in email programs

Make regular backups of critical data. If you are infected this may be your only solution

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer

Install a personal firewall on the computer

Install anti-virus/anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet

Ensure your anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments

Don’t store critical data on the system partition

Let me reemphasize – Make regular backups of critical data. If you become infected, this may be your only recovery option.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Ransomware, Windows Tips and Tools

Free FilerFrog – A Powerful Windows Explorer Context Menu Extension

imageIf you’re a power user, then you know that by utilizing the “right click context menu” in Windows Explorer, you can obtain a real productivity boost. So, if you’re looking for a context menu extender that will increase your productivity when you’re working with files and folders, then take a look at FilerFrog.

FilerFrog (last updated November 8, 2010), is an open source Windows Explorer context menu extension, that adds a bag full of additional context menu support  in the following categories – image resizing, file renaming, encryption, listing, path copying, and a whole lot more.

Following installation ( a restart is required), you will see the new “FilerFrog”, command in Windows Explorer context menu (right click menu), as the following screen capture illustrates.

Click on to graphic to expand to original size. (1100×776)

I’m a big fan of Explorer context menu extensions, so you might see some menu extenders in this screen shot that you’re not familiar with.

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If the right click context menu is a tool you use frequently, installing FilerFrog should help boost to your productivity when you’re working with files and folders.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7.

Downloads: Be sure you choose the right installer.

32 bit.

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64 bit.

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If the right click context menu is a tool you use frequently, installing FilerFrog should help give a boost to your productivity.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Encryption, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Productivity Software, Software, System Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Download Free Encrypt Stick 4.3 – A Digital Privacy Manager

image When talking about encryption applications, my good buddy Glenn Taggart likes to say, “My primary use is encrypting my personal information in the event prying eyes happen upon my stuff.”

I can’t argue with that. Financial data and other privileged information on a computer can easily be subject to intrusive viewing by those not authorized to do so.

Of course, it’s not only those with physical access that can probe a computer for sensitive and confidential information. Internet malware attack statistics show, more and more, that this type of information is targeted by hackers/information thieves, for the purpose of identity theft.

Can it happen to you? The short answer is – you can count on an attempt. The reality is; there is no such thing as a totally secured internet connected computer. All internet connected computers are subject to attack.

As well, many of us have additional files that we may consider sensitive and confidential. Files that we don’t want a spouse, girlfriend, a child, or others, to have ready access to.

To reduce or eliminate the security threat to your sensitive data, the most prudent course for you to follow is to encrypt your data. Data encryption makes the data unreadable unless, or until, decrypted by you.

I’ve just finished testing the recently released Encrypt Stick digital privacy application, which is available in both a free version and a commercial version, and I have to say, I’m very impressed.

Encrypt Stick runs directly (and only), from a USB drive which guarantees that no foot print is left on your machine.

On launching the application, which must be launched from the flash drive to which it was downloaded (or in my case copied), the following screen appears. The process of encryption is very straightforward from there, as the screen captures below indicate.

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After activation (in this case the free version), you will be prompted for a password.

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The first time you run Encrypt Stick digital privacy software, you’ll be presented with a quick tutorial which explains the basic steps so that you can get up and running quickly. A very cool idea!

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Please be aware that you must enter your password before you can gain access to the application.

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Double clicking on the new vault (First Vault), which I’ve created on my D drive, allows access to all of the application’s functions.

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In this case, I encrypted a test file (application) – TaskBar Repair Tool. You’ll notice I have the option of removing this file (the unencrypted version), from my D drive or, leaving it on the drive as is.

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The end result is, the test file is now safely encrypted and stored in “First Vault”. To ensure the file was stable, I then launched the application directly from inside the vault.

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Here’s how the developer describes Encrypt Stick:

Encrypt Stick digital privacy software turns any Flash Drive into a personal Digital Privacy Manager (DPM). The DPM is the key that locks down privacy for your sensitive digital files.

It’s a complete file security system for all your desktops, laptops, storage devices and portable USB devices. Most utilities can do only part of the job. Encrypt Stick software does it all, quicker and easier — without expensive hardware.

This application is very substantial, and includes a vast number of features. However, the free version is limited to 20 MB of storage. Still, an average user should find this limitation acceptable.

Fast Facts – Free version:

Free Downloadable Updates

No Administrator Access Necessary to setup or run Encrypt Stick

Setup and running in under 5 minutes!

Easy to use – no learning curve

Compatible with Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Win7

Compatible with Mac OS 10.4+

Encrypt Stick runs from your flash drive – not your computer

Uses 512bit Polymorphic Encryption

Encryption Algorithm is unique to each Flash Drive

High speed encryption

Protects any type of digital file

Encrypted Vault’s are hidden from other users

Encrypted Flash Drive Storage Space 20mb

Store Encrypted Vaults on any computer

Store Encrypted Vaults on Network Servers

Protects Files and folders on any type of storage device

Unlimited Folders – Create folders within Vaults to organize your files

Automatic Timeout Feature – Never leave your files exposed   5 minutes

Encrypted Virtual Keyboard – Eliminate Key Stroke Logging

And lots more

System requirements: Mac OSX 10.4+, Windows XP, Vista, Win 7.

Download at: the developer’s site (ENC).

As an added bonus, Encrypt Stick includes both a password manager, and a virtual keyboard. Testing of both these additional features was outside the scope of this review, however.

To get a feel for just how easy this application is to run, checkout – Walkthroughs – Encrypting Files To Your Flash Drive, on the developer’s site.

The following are additional free encryption applications we’ve previously reviewed here:

TrueCrypt

AxCrypt

EncryptOnClick

Secret Disk

USB Safeguard

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Filed under Apple, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Encryption, Encryption Software, Encryption Software Alternatives, Freeware, Mac OS X, Portable Applications, Software, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Download TrueCrypt – TrueCrypt Beats The FBI Decryption Team!

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When the subject of file/disk encryption comes up, when talking with my non-technical friends, I often get the oddest looks and the strangest comments. These comments generally revolve around the fact (my friends’ facts), that only someone with something to hide would need to encrypt files.

They’re right of course, but not for the reasons they set forth.

In the real world, 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 (I’ve personally lost two), 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 using for the last several 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.

image

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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 in this latest release (November 23, 2009), 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 earlier, 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

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Encryption, Encryption Software, Freeware, Linux, Mac, Open Source, Portable Applications, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Download Free USB Safeguard – Simple USB Data Encryption

USB Stick 2 Since USB 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 (I’ve personally lost two – both encrypted), or stolen.

If you should lose a USB drive, through happenstance or theft, you need to be sure that any confidential information on the drive cannot be read, and the way to do that is to encrypt your data.

If you’re unfamiliar with data encryption; simply put, it is a process by which bits of data are mathematically jumbled with a password-key. The process makes the data unreadable unless, or until, decrypted by you.

Here’s a very cool free encryption application, USB Safeguard, which will encrypt your USB data in an easy, follow the bouncing ball manner – you can’t get much easier than “Drag and Drop”. Simply download this free application and run it from your USB drive.

The following screen captures illustrate just how easy encryption can be using USB Safeguard. Clicking on any graphic will open a new window to display the graphic in 640x – format.

Launch the application on your USB drive and construct a password.

USB Safeguard 1

You will be queried as to whether you want to save your password on your Home PC.

USB Safeguard 2

Drag and Drop the files on the USB Drive you want to encrypt into the applications interface window. The free application restricts encryption to a maximum of 2 GB.

USB Safeguard 3

Following successful encryption you will have the option of further protecting your files (in the event of loss), by overwriting or deleting the encrypted files. I particularly like this feature, since it adds another layer of security.

USB Safeguard 4

USB Safeguard 5

Decrypting the files is every bit as easy. Simply launch the application (remember, the application is on the USB drive), enter you’re password and voila!

USB Safeguard 7

Fast facts:

Runs with any usb pen drive

No installation required

256-bit AES encryption

Easy drag & drop file adding

Built in file shredder

Secure your data if drive is lost

Supports FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS file system

Without a doubt, this is encryption taken to a new level of simplicity. Ideal for average users, who have little interest in dealing with the finer points of encrypting data.

System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Seven

Download at: Developer’s Site (USB Safeguard Software)

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Filed under downloads, Encryption, Encryption Software, Freeware, Privacy, Software, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP