The process in which data is transformed into a form called ciphertext to secure it from eavesdroppers, hackers or unauthorized people is called encryption. Thus, it is a foolproof way of protecting your files and folders from unauthorized access. In encryption, the information is transformed and transmitted with the help of an ‘algorithms‘ (mathematical formula) in such a form that is unreadable to anyone but the intended person.
In layman’s terms, it is way of communicating in codes. Now this is a very vague definition for the simple reason that codes may not always involve algorithms. On the other hand, encryption always does. For example – You just take a ‘.doc’ (Word) file and convert its extension to any other extension let’s say .mp3. Now, if anyone tries to open it – they won’t be able to do so for the obvious reason that a ‘.doc’ file can’t be opened with a ‘.mp3’ extension. But this still will not be considered as encryption. And the reason for that will be the one stated above. There are no algorithms used.
Now, the history of encryption dates back to the era of Spartans. During that time, sensitive messages were sent by the Generals by using a scytale, a thin cylinder made out of wood. The message would then be written along the length in a piece of parchment and then wrapped around the scytale. When someone removed the paper from the cylinder, the writing appeared to be a jumble of nonsense. But if the other general receiving the parchment had a scytale of similar size, he could wrap the paper around it and easily read the intended message. The Greeks were the first to use ciphers or as we now call them algorithms. As long as both the Generals had the correct knowledge of how to decipher the code they could decode any message sent.
But we are in the 21st century and thus are least concerned by how the people in olden times concealed their information. What we need to know is how data is encrypted in computers. Let me give you a basic view of the types of encryption, why you need it and most importantly how to use it.
Why Do I Need Encryption?
The first question which arises is “Why do I a normal computer user who just uses the computer as an entertainment source need something like this?” Well, you don’t. But even unknowingly you are using it. When you surf the internet, you are not just passively opening sites, reading blogs or articles, gaming – but also sending a lot of your private information to the server. When you order something online be it a dress, pair of shoes, books anything at all you are sending in a lot of your private information. Your name, phone number, address, and most importantly your credit card number.
To keep all this safe and confidential the encryption process kicks in. Usually you can tell when your data is passing through a secure channel. When a secure channel is being used the ‘http’ in the address bar of your browser is replaced by ‘https’ (hyper text transfer protocol secure) and you see a small padlock at the bottom of your browser window. Always check this when you are submitting some sensitive information such as making an online payment or checking your bank account details.
Laptop theft is a rising crime. According to FBI data, the number of reported stolen laptops is increasing by 35% every year. It’s quite shocking that 97% of the stolen laptops are never even recovered. Thus, if your Laptop is stolen and it wasn’t encrypted, the thieves can have a merry day. Granted, that you may lose hundreds of bucks on buying a new laptop, but if all the private and sensitive data such as your financial information, client files, trade secrets, social security number, bank details or evidence of your erotic photography hobby are encrypted, the perpetrator cannot hack your computer to get to that. After all, every cloud has a silver lining. It’s just a bit difficult to see it in this case.
Another case where it can be of use if you are sending some sensitive information via an email. In big MNC’s, if you are sending some important data to – let’s say one of your client, the mail can be pretty easily tracked with the help of sniffer. This off course is not legal (and I’d strongly you advice never to do it) but then again, have you ever met a thief who plays by the rules?
You can lose a lot of information to those who are not really authorized. But if you encrypt the data before you send it, it would make no sense to the hacker even if he gets your information.
Steps to Encrypt on Windows 7
**File encryption in Windows 7 is only available in ‘ Windows 7 Professional’ or higher versions (Windows 7 Ultimate, or Windows 7 Enterprise).
Step 1. Select the file or folder you wish to encrypt. Right click on the file icon or folder and then select properties.
Step 2. When the properties window opens, open the general tab located at the upper left corner. Now open the advanced attributes, by clicking the ‘Advanced’ button.
Step 3. In ‘Advanced Attributes’ check ‘Encrypt contents to secure data‘.
Step 4. It will prompt you to confirm attribute changes. Check ‘apply changes to this folder, subfolders and files’ and click Ok.
Step 5. Voila! Your folder and its contents are now encrypted. Your encrypted files and folders will be visible in green color.
If it doesn’t seem to work then you will have to follow this procedure-
Step 1. Go to the folder options. You can find this in control panel or click ‘organize’ at the upper left corner.
A window will open and you will find folder options there.
Step 2. Once the ‘Folder Options’ are open select the ‘View’ tab at the upper left corner.
In the view tab check the ‘Show Encrypted or Compressed NTFS files in color‘.
There you go. Now your encrypted file will appear colored. If the default encryption software on your Windows isn’t enough or if you have any other version of Windows 7 installed that doesn’t come with the Encryption feature built-in, we have created this small list of best encryption software that will help you encrypt files and folders on your PC.
Top 5 Encryption Softwares
There are plenty of encryption softwares available in the market. Some of them are free but for obvious reasons the paid ones are the way to go. Pretty much like antivirus softwares you don’t really want to take risks herein trying to save a few bucks by buying a bogus free one you may lose sensitive information worth thousands. Here are some good softwares for the job.
A really useful tool to have in your computer. Its default settings allows you to connect to any SSH1 or SSH2 server in the most secure way by choosing the strongest encryption algorithms supported by a computer. It can create a highly secure SOCKS5 proxy. Features to secure file transfer between computers as well as to external drives.
As simple as any encryption program can get. Just choose any file or folder you wish to secure and drag to the large padlock image at the interface. It will prompt you to choose a password and you are done! Easy and quick! Ideal for a home users but not quite for a secret service guy
3) Kruptos 2
One of the better freeware encryption programs you will find. The program is really user friendly and the encryption process goes smoothly. You can drag and drop files and folders into the interface and it will encrypt it for you. The encryption algorithm it uses is Blowfish 128-bit and thus is pretty secure. This would the way to go for home users.
A smartly made file encryption software. Once installed you can easily encrypt files by right clicking on the item you wish to encrypt. Once you right click select AxCrypt and then encrypt. It will let you create a password and even a key-file. A key file acts as a medium to decrypt the encrypted files.
One of the best encrypting softwares out there. A very exiting feature that it boasts of is that it can be used on any computer in the world regardless of it being installed there. It can run without being installed, even from a USB drive or the Internet, giving you access to your protected files anywhere, including public computers. Now that’s handy! Isn’t it?