Tag Archives: Win 7

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

Free StartUp Tuner 2 – Fixes Slow Computer Boot Time

image Is Windows boot time starting to get you down? Do you sometimes feel as if you could go and make a coffee while waiting for Windows to start? Let me tell you, if you feel that way, you’re not alone – it can happen to all of us.

You’ll often find, after installing a new application, that it automatically triggers an auto-start command on system start up.

That means, each time your computer is booted, this type of presumptive program is started with Windows, which is unlikely to be your intent, and in many cases is not needed. For example, iTunes is one of those programs that has this nasty habit.

As a result of this program behavior, your start sequence can become considerably longer, system resources can be ravaged, and manually shutting down these unnecessary startups can be frustrating, and time consuming.

The following is a perfect example of how out of control these presumptive  auto-start applications can become.

Recently, a friend asked me for advice on his sister’s computer that was slow at startup, and even worse, was slow in normal operation. It was easy to see why. The computer was loading 26 applications on startup, which then continued to run in the background, eating up system resources.

There are a number of manual methods available to deactivate these very irritating applications from auto starting, but a great free application from Ashampoo does the job quickly, cleanly, and with no fuss.

StartUp Tuner 2 lists all auto-start entries and allows you to individually delete or deactivate those entries. If you turn off all of the unnecessary entries (be sure they are not necessary), Windows will boot faster; in many cases considerably faster.

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Bonus features:

StartUp Tuner 2 can do more than just this though. The tool can list all Windows services by name and it allows you to activate, or deactivate them, with the click of the mouse.

The application shows all installed Windows programs, but it builds its lists more quickly than the control panel software module. You can then uninstall programs that are no longer required, including program entries that the native Windows uninstaller generally leaves untouched.

Many Browser Helper Objects (BHOs) are useful, but others simply take up space on the Hard Drive and serve no useful purpose. StartUp Tuner 2 lists all of them, and allows you to delete, or deactivate them, if you determine you longer need them.

The application automatically generates a backup of the changes that you have made, giving you the opportunity to reverse any changes.

StartUp Tuner 2 can be used free for 10 days. After that time, free online registration is required. You will receive an activation code which will convert the test version of the program into the full version.

Ashampoo loves to remind you of the value of their full software lineup, so if you find it bothersome to receive this type of email, you’d be better off passing on StartUp Tuner 2.

Personally, I like to stay in the loop on new software developments, so I don’t object to receiving emails soliciting my business for new applications. One of the benefits of registering with Ashampoo is – they often give away full versions of their apps, just prior to the release of a new version.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista. Win 7 (no x64 support).

Download at: Developer’s site

Note: Full administrative rights are required to install the program. After it has been installed it can be used with any user account.

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Slow Computer, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, 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

For Added Internet Protection – Virtualize Your System with Free Wondershare Time Freeze

image At the end of 2009, many of the premier security application developers projected, that 2010 would see an increase in the the use of virtualization applications.  Specifically, controlling malware intrusion through the use of a ‘”virtual” environment, rather than operating in a “real” environment.

This prediction made sense, and so this year, we’ve focused somewhat more on operating system virtualization. We’ve looked at Shadow Defender, Returnil Virtual System, Sandboxie, GeSWall, and a number of other similar applications.

I’ve just recently completed testing Wondershare Time Freeze, a relatively new and easy to use, free (at the moment),  intrusion prevention system, that is non intrusive, and after initial setup, requires a minimum of user intervention – perfect for the average user.

Installation was hassle free – it was just a matter of  following the on-screen instructions.

The interface is the usual tab and check box layout, and is self explanatory with no learning curve involved.

Timefreeze 2

Once system protection is enabled, a popup reminder will warn you that system changes will not be saved to disk. All downloaded files, all created documents, and all system changes will disappear on reboot. However, you do have another option – see the following.

Timefreeze 1

If you do want to save system changes then, before rebooting, open the application and turn off system protection. You will be warned that your system may “stop responding” for several minutes. In fact, I noticed a lag of less than 20 seconds.

Timefreeze 3

Fast facts:

System protection

Keep the actual system in a constant state, prevent the computer from getting slower and slower with time.

Put the actual system under protection to prevent malicious threats.

Traces of surfing the Internet and computer operation will disappear after reboot. (You have the flexibility to save changes to the actual system.)

Test software and game installations safely on a virtual system.

Folder protection

Mode 1: Disable access to the protected folders.

Mode 2: Prohibit changing files in the protected folders.

Protect your files from being infected by viruses or Trojans.

Protect your privacy more effectively.

Access protection

Manage the program with a custom password setting.

Keep inexperienced users from making changes to your settings and configurations.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Win 7 (32 bit only).

Download at: Wondershare

This test was fairly brief (a couple of days), but I did not encounter any problems, and ran Time Freeze successfully alongside GeSWall with no difficulty. Wondershare Time Freeze worked just as advertized – not always the case with this class of software.

Note: This application requires registration within 30 days in order to keep using it. Getting the registration code though, is a snap. Just click “Get Keycode”, and you’ll receive the registration code by email.

In previous reviews of virtualization applications, a number of readers made mention of Comodo Time Machine, a worthwhile free system restore utility. Popular guest author, Rick Robinette, has a very informative article over on his site, What’s On My PCComodo Time Machine – A Powerful System Restore Utility. I encourage you to read this article.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, 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