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My recent article on cloud computing Build Yourself A Virtual Cloud To Fall Back On Build Yourself A Virtual Cloud To Fall Back On Read More has sparked quite a discussion about how realistic the scenario is, and how no one is going to use cloud computing as a standard way of working because it puts their privacy and security at risk.

The truth is, everybody with a computer and internet access is already performing cloud computing. When in need for information, do you go to the library or do you use search engines and wikis? Do you still send letters or do you use online eMail accounts? Even if you use Outlook (beware!) or Thunderbird, all your eMails pass through the cloud, are temporarily (hopefully!) stored on mail servers, and can be intercepted at various points during their journey. That’s the reality.

If you are worried about privacy and if you need to transmit confidential information quickly, you should think about encryption. There are multiple ways to automatically encrypt eMails through the program you are using. The advantage is comfort, the disadvantage is that it’s quite predictable. Here are a selection of encryption tools to add some variation.

Cybermachine

This very simple tool comes with a number of different not so serious encryption and decryption methods. To me the highlights are l33t encryption, pig latin and backward spelling. Since not even a password or key is required to decrypt messages, Cybermachine should be used for fun only.

[NO LONGER WORKS] Encodor

This is the best tool for quick and thorough encryption. As can be seen in the screenshot below, the interface is plain and simple, Encodor supports up to 400 characters, with up to 30 characters the password can be very strong, no sign up is required to use Encodor, and there are no limitations of how often it can be used. Nothing is revealed about the encryption method used.

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Info Encrypt

If 400 characters for your message and 30 for the password are not enough, Info Encrypt provides more space. The interface is a tad less stylish, but not a bit more complicated to use. For safety reasons the password has to be entered twice for encryption.

[NO LONGER WORKS] File Encryptor

Encrypting plain text messages is all fair and easy, but what about files? The partner site to Info Encrypt provides a file encryption engine which is just as easy to handle as the previous tools. Files of up to 10MB can be encrypted and optionally secured with a password. The files are not stored online, but rather must be downloaded and shared by other means.

Lockbin

The last tool in the list is the most comprehensive one. This service stores your encrypted and password protected WYSIWYG message, and informs the indicated recipient via eMail about it.
Lockbin takes us through five stages:

  1. Agree to the terms and conditions.
  2. Prove that you are not a robot.
    I failed twice, but I swear it was an o!
  3. Finally begin to edit your message.
    It may contain formatted text, different containers (paragraphs, headers, etc.), lists, links, images, tables or any html code you wish to enter directly. Copy and paste from a text editor to Lockbin works just fine.
  4. Enter your Secret Word.
  5. Enter information for both yourself and the designated message recipient(s).

And that’s it, now you’re all set for online message and file encryption. For more information about encryption check out Simon’s article Keeping Under the Radar and Securing Your PC Files Keeping Under the Radar and Securing Your PC Files Keeping Under the Radar and Securing Your PC Files Read More , Aibek’s piece on 2 Ways to Hide “Important” Files and Folders in Windows 2 Ways to Hide "Important" Files and Folders in Windows 2 Ways to Hide "Important" Files and Folders in Windows Read More , Mark’s articles on TrueCrypt How To Encrypt Sensitive Data with TrueCrypt How To Encrypt Sensitive Data with TrueCrypt Read More , how to Encrypt Your USB Stick Encrypt Your USB Stick With Truecrypt 6.0 Encrypt Your USB Stick With Truecrypt 6.0 Read More and Are you Sure your Email isn’t being Hacked? Are you Sure your Email isn't being Hacked? Are you Sure your Email isn't being Hacked? Read More , and finally my article on how to Become a Secret Steganographer Become a Secret Steganographer: Hide and Encrypt your Files Become a Secret Steganographer: Hide and Encrypt your Files Read More .

How safe do you feel using online communication for more or less sensible data?

  1. miho
    January 18, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Free Encrypt and Decrypt text and files online, using MultiBit encryption.
    rypo.com

  2. Bakz
    November 19, 2008 at 4:01 am

    Check out Flexcrypt, encryption of email, msn and icq. And Flexcrypt folder, encryption of files and folders.

    AES 256 bit + password encryption, windows.

    http://www.flexcrypt.com

  3. W00p
    September 27, 2008 at 11:11 am

    you should definitely add https://privnote.com/ to the list.

  4. DanGTD
    August 27, 2008 at 12:23 am

    TrueCrypt is good too, and it's for both Windows and Linux.

  5. Transcontinental
    August 26, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Very nice. Encodor and InfoEncrypt in particular. Concerning the password -- which should never be included with the encrypted message, of course -- what I suggest is that your correspondent and yourself have available the exact same copy of a given book which is known only by both of you to be the "reference" book. With the message you would choose as the password the x first letters of the y paragraph of the z page, for instance
    [Encrypted message]
    Ref : x-y-z

    Now with that, especially if both have more than one book available, things become nicely tough!

    EDIT : Be sure the book is not a unique edition, and remains available elsewhere, because if the recipient ever looses the book, he should be able to get a new copy in town. That could make a nice thriller, very Hitchcock, where the man runs all over town to but another copy, finds out it's not the same edition, has to fly to NY to find it, 15 hrs left, will he make it .... Wow!

  6. Mackenzie
    August 26, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    If nothing is revealed about the encryption implementation, how can we trust it? For all we know, it's a Caesar Cypher or simple polyalphabetic encryption. It's obviously synchronous, since only a password is needed. That right there makes it less secure than using PGP directly on your computer before uploading, since with asynchronous encryption the snoop would need to have the other key *and* guess your password. With this synchronous method, you're trusting to someone's inability to guess the password.

    • bob
      August 28, 2008 at 5:53 am

      I wholeheartedly agree with you Mackenzie, and also would like to bring up the point that if the aim of these websites are to stop people intercepting and gaining your data, why do they allow it to happen on the way to that website. Only File Encryptor (however, you did not link to the secure version) and Lockbin provide HTTPS so the other websites leave you open to attack!

      Think about it this way, you send your precious secret text to the website, in plain text ( which anyone can intercept and read), then it is 'encrypted' and sent back to you in a safe format to then communicate safely. But there is no point in that, because you sent it out for anyone to see (including the website, which you can't trust at all anyway!*), all they need is some determination - and some cooperation from your ISP can help - to succeed.

      You would definitely be better off using some program on your own computer (such as PGP, gpg - even a few of the programs MakeUseOf has reviewed) where nothing has to be sent out through networks you can't trust (i.e. the internet)! Seriously guys, don't trust 'The Cloud'!

      * For all you know they might be (and probably will be forced to) log all the text/data/files you send to them, along with your IP, so it can always be traced back to you!). They could even be owned by the people involved with spying, to try and catch people out!**

      ** Yes, sorry, I know am paranoid, but I think that paranoia is a healthy attitude to take toward computer security!

      - Bob Hodgkins

      • Tina
        August 28, 2008 at 9:56 am

        All true.

        Can you decrypt this?

  7. Paula Dunne
    August 26, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    By FAR the easiest and most secure way to encrypt email to one or more recipients is Voltage. You don't have to share a secret word, a private key, know anything at all about encryption, and the company is solid. Try it for yourself--don't take my word for it! You can get it here: voltage.com/vsn (also file encryption)

    Enjoy!

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