Tag Archives: transparent

When Free Doesn’t Mean Free

This guest post is contributed by my Aussie mate, Jim Hillier. Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at Dave’s Computer Tips. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele… as well as writing for DCT, of course.


Remember the good old days when the “free” in freeware meant exactly that?

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I started writing about freeware back in the days when Clif Sipe (aka Clif Notes) and Ian (Gizmo) Richards were pretty much the freeware gurus. Those were the halcyon days when innovation was rife and there was always some new and exciting freeware to write about and discuss. When good old Spybot Search & Destroy was pretty much the only antimalware – long before anyone had even heard of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware – and the awful Adobe Acrobat was the ubiquitous PDF reader.

I still vividly recall when Ian Richards first wrote about a new program called “Sandboxie” back in 2004. Sandboxie intrigued me no end and I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread… still do. However, back in those days, the concept of an “isolated virtual environment” was pretty much unheard of and trying to explain it, even to experienced users, was no easy chore. Alas, Gizmo’s original Freeware Newsletter is no more and Clif Sipe has long retired to a well-deserved easier life.

Fast forward to today and the freeware scene has changed dramatically. Not only has just about every avenue for freeware innovation been well and truly covered, creating a scarcity of material for freeware writers, but the entire concept of “free” has also taken on a whole new meaning.

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Today, it seems very little is actually free and there is usually some sort of trade off involved  –  limited features, upgrade nag screens, download wrappers, advertising modules, bundled PUPs, toolbars, etc. Writing a freeware review today is as much about the potential safety and bundling issues as the actual program. While I can’t blame developers for seizing the opportunity to monetize all the work involved with developing and maintaining their software, I do wish they would be totally transparent about it, plus perhaps consider a system of opt-in rather than opt-out.

The trend has become so prevalent that it has actually spawned a whole new category of freeware tools – such as Unchecky and  AdwCleaner –  which are specifically designed to help users deal with bundling and PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs). A pretty scary indication of just how predominant this practice has become. Even the once pristine Open Source software has been sullied by SourceForge’s flirtation with DevShare, an adware supported download wrapper which was eventually discontinued after SourceForge changed hands in 2016.

There are still developers who remain true to the original spirit of freeware of course. Nir Sofer and his excellent collection of free portable NirSoft tools and utilities readily spring to mind. Unfortunately though, true unadulterated freeware is fast becoming as scarce as rocking horse manure and, sadly, today’s users need to approach all so-called freeware with a heightened sense of “let the downloader beware”.

2 Comments

Filed under downloads, Freeware, Software, Technicians Advise

Free Encryption Software – TrueCrypt – USB Security

Whenever 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.

Well, they’re right; but not for the reasons that they suggest.

The real world shows us continually, that financial data and other confidential information can easily be subject to intrusive viewing by others not authorized to do so.

Two examples of how this might occur:

Internet malware attack: Statistics have shown, more and more, that financial data is targeted by hackers/information thieves, for the purpose of identity theft. The reality is; 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/heard 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.

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 is 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 system, (one I have using for the last several years) 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. No data stored on an encrypted volume can be read (decrypted) without using the correct password/correct encryption keys.

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 (March 17, 2008), 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.

As I stated 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. Indicative of this application’s popularity is the fact that it has been downloaded 5,837,372 times.

Quick 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

Download at: Download.com

6 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Encryption, Encryption Software, Freeware, Portable Applications, Privacy, Software, System Security, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

T r u e C r y p t – 5 Star Free Encryption Software – USB Flash Drive Compatible

truecrypt.jpgWhenever the subject of file/disk encryption comes up when talking with my non-technical friends, I often get the strangest 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.

The fact is they’re right; but not for the reasons that they suggest.

The real world shows us continually, that financial data and other confidential particulars can easily be subject to intrusive viewing by others not authorized to do so. Internet malware attack statistics have shown, more and more, that this type of information is targeted by hackers/information thieves, for the purpose of identity theft. The reality is; there is no such thing as a totally secured internet connected computer. All internet connected computers are subject to attack.

To reduce or eliminate the security threat of sensitive data exposure, 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 is 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 system, (one I have using for the last several years) 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. No data stored on an encrypted volume can be read (decrypted) without using the correct password/correct encryption keys.

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 (February 5, 2008), 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.

As I stated 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.

Quick 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

 

Download at: Download.com

2 Comments

Filed under Encryption, Encryption Software, Freeware, Open Source, Portable Applications, Privacy, Software, Windows Tips and Tools