Security is an area of computing where some people are completely paranoid, while others barely give it a glance. No matter in which category you fall under, security will ultimately always be something that can be improved, as there will always be a hole that a stranger could exploit.
While we won’t be talking about software security, we are going to cover some overall communication security. In this case we’ll be sending text through an encryption/decryption program to make communications secure, whether over instant messenger, or via email.
Scrambled-Egg is a lightweight open source program that does nothing more than text encryption. It does offer plenty of ways to do this, using up to 2 different techniques at once (from a much larger list of, compressing techniques), and a few other useful settings that will be explained later. It is easy to learn and use, so why not go ahead and install it?
To install the Scrambled-Egg text encryption software, you’ll need to visit this page and download the Win32 installer of the latest version (0.4 at the time of this article). Do note that there is in fact only a Windows binary available, though the site advertises that it should work under Mac OS X, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Fedora as well. Once the installer is downloaded, you can launch it and run through the steps. Once complete, you’ll find Scrambled-Egg in your Start Menu.
Once the main window opens, you’ll see that it’s fairly easy to navigate. You have the left side of the window to encrypt any text that you wish, while the right side is dedicated to decrypting text. The two work hand in hand, so anything you wish to encrypt using the left side will appear in encrypted form on the right side. As soon as you make any changes to the left side, the right side gets updated in real time.
As you’ll soon notice, there are plenty of different ways to encrypt your text. You can encode your text using AES, ARC2, Blowfish, CAST, DES3 or RSA, then encode the result in a printable form, using Base64, Base32, HEX, Quopri, string escape, UU, XML or Json. The result can also be compressed using ROT13, ZLIB, or BZ2. By using these compression techniques during the encryption process, you can cut down on the space that an amount of text needs. The resulting file containing the compressed and encrypted text can then be placed into a ZIP folder which will drastically compress the file even further, allowing you to store the most amount of text on the smallest amount of storage space. In this sense you get two benefits from one process.
Increase Security with a Password
Preferably, you should add a password so that your text cannot be decrypted without the password. If you ever get encrypted text from an outside source, you must select the methods that were used for encryption along with the correct password in order to receive the decrypted text. This massively improves overall security over the basic “guess the combination of encryption techniques” way to get decrypted text.
At the bottom you’ll find a few more options that you can choose from. You can select whether formatting is important, if your text should be presented in HTML, and whether tags should exist in the encrypted text. I recommend you choose the “No tags” option as the tags will give away the encryption methods that were used. You’ll also find Import and Export buttons, which will open or save any encrypted text files. Finally, if you need another explanation of how things work, you can click on the Help button for a nice, concise explanation.
Scrambled-Egg is a great way to secure your communications without having to get involved into more complex ways of securing transmissions, such as GPG keys for emails. Additionally, you won’t have to become dependent on an online site to do the encryption and decryption for you, as you cannot view the code that makes the site work. Overall, this is a great tool for a number of different uses, and should be on everyone’s list of programs to consider. There’s even a portable version of the text encryption software available for your USB drive!
Is encryption important to you? Why or why not? What do you think is the best way to communicate securely? Let us know in the comments!
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