Encryption is often considered the playground of geeks alone, but it doesn’t have to be. Encryption just means that information is scrambled and you can only access the real information with a special password or key. On an Internet where we don’t want our credit card numbers and other sensitive data exposed to prying eyes, encryption is an important tool.
The four applications here will help you have encrypted chat conversations, hide data in media files, secure your cloud storage, and send secret messages via email. Note however that no service is perfect. If you’re an activist fighting a totalitarian government that’s after you, ensure you do more research before trusting one of these services with your life.
Cryptocat – Chat Privately in Your Browser
Cryptocat has been highlighted in the media recently for offering easy-to-use encrypted chat for the masses. Chat messages are encrypted in your browser before leaving your computer and can only be viewed by the recipient. You’ll have to install the Cryptocat extension for your browser from its website to get started.
Open the Cryptocat extension after it’s installed to start chatting. You’ll only need to enter two pieces of information – the name of a conversation room and a nickname for yourself. Share the name of the conversation with other people you want to talk to and they can easily join it.
After other people join your conversation, you can have an encrypted chat session with them. Messages are encrypted on your computer, travel over the Internet in an encrypted form, and are decrypted on your recipients’ computers. This prevents eavesdropping — not even Cryptocat’s servers can view the messags.
For even more privacy, you can use Cryptocat with Tor, an anonymous way of accessing the web. No one will be able to tell that you’re even using Cryptocat.
OpenPuff – Hide Data in Media Files
You could store and send encrypted data by creating an encrypted file. People wouldn’t be able to see your data, but they’d know there’s something there. Instead of creating a standard encrypted file, you can use steganography to hide your encrypted data in an image, video, or audio file. OpenPuff is a Windows application that makes this easy.
After downloading OpenPuff, launch it and click the Hide button to start hiding data in a file. You (or someone else) can use the Unhide button to extract hidden data from a file if you have the required information. This allows you to share media files with someone or just store your own secret data in a place no one would think to look.
Cloudfogger – Secure & Share Your Cloud Files
Use Cloudfogger to encrypt files and folders that you store online in cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive. To encrypt your Dropbox directory, right-click it in Windows Explorer and use the Cloudfogger context menu to define it as a “Cloudfogger Autofogg Folder.” Files stored in your Dropbox directory will be stored on disk in an encrypted form and only the encrypted copies will be uploaded.
You can also use the Cloudfogger submenu to easily encrypt individual files. For example, you can encrypt sensitive files before taking them with you on a USB stick. If you lose the USB drive, you won’t have to worry – anyone that finds the drive can’t view your sensitive data. Fogg one or more individual files and you’ll see an option to “defogg” it when you right-click it.
Cloudfogger also includes easy sharing features. Use the Manage Folder Shares option in the Cloudfogger submenu to specify email addresses that have access to the files. For example, if you share the files with someone via Dropbox, they’ll be able to use your encrypted “Autofogg Folder” without needing your password.
Cloudfogger is just one of many ways to securely encrypt your cloud storage.
Lockbin – Send Secret Messages Via Email
Have you ever needed to email someone an important, sensitive piece of information? Email isn’t secure – if you send the information itself in an email, someone could eavesdrop on it in transit. Even if it reaches its destination securely, the data is now stored in someone’s email account – it will be backed up on email servers and buried in email archives where someone can find it in the future. If you’re sending something important, such as a credit card number or other piece of confidential information, this is unacceptable.
That’s where Lockbin comes in. Use the Send Message feature on the Lockbin website (no registration is necessary) to create a secret message. This message is secured with a password the recipient will need to know – for example, you could decide on a password ahead of time in person. Once you’ve entered the information, a notification will be emailed to the recipient. They’ll have to click the link in the email and provide the password. After they view the message once, it will be deleted from Lockbin’s servers. You can even attach a file to your secret message, which can be downloaded when the user accesses the message on Lockbin.
For more ways to send secret messages by email or instant message, check out our list of ways to keep sensitive data out of your emails and chat logs.
What other tricks do you use to encrypt your data and keep it secure? Leave a comment and share them!
Image Credit: Lock Icon via Shutterstock