With the news awash regarding the NSA snooping scandal and a rash of data thefts the most secure way to keep info safe is to encrypt it.
My personal favorite tool for this is truecrypt. http://www.truecrypt.org/ As of 12/1/15 Truecrypt announced a security flaw but no real details. In light if that check out VeraCrypt at https://veracrypt.codeplex.com/ It works the same as TrueCrypt with enhanced encryption methods.
Encryption: In its simplest form, is encrypting a file, folder or drive by means of locking the data so that only the correct passphrase will unlock it.
DO NOT FORGET YOUR PASSPHRASE!!
TrueCrypt’s site claims the software has been downloaded more than 13 million times. This has to be put into perspective. Compression tools like WinZip are mainstream and universal. They get massive download rates because everybody uses them. Encryption is still in the outer orbit of mainstream awareness. Relatively few people use encryption. It’s one of those things that most folks don’t seriously consider until they’ve been burnt by not employing it. So, 13 million TrueCrypt downloads is really a telling sign of this software’s popularity.
There are a few things to consider before deploying TrueCrypt. First, TrueCrypt doesn’t offer any way to recover your encrypted partition if you lose your passphrase. The only option would be a brute force or side channel attack, but if all the governments of the world can’t crack AES-256, your odds are pretty slim. TrueCrypt also allows for the creation of hidden partitions and even denying their existence. You could create two encrypted system partitions and hide one of them. The visible one works as a decoy, which you could use regularly to give off the impression that it’s your active system. Whether you boot the hidden system or the decoy is decided by the passphrase you type at startup.
Now if you think the above statement regarding the government’s inability to decrypt a drive is false, take a moment to read the case involving a woman in Colorado that is refusing to decrypt her drive so that prosecutors can build a case against her. Update 2/15/17 – Not defending the worthless Muslims that committed but this is a good example of why encryption is needed. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-california-shooting-encryption-idUSKCN0VI22A
DO NOT FORGET YOUR PASSPHRASE!!
Now, back to our tip.
First, using encryption software, you can create an encrypted container, then save files, folders, etc in said container. With darn near certainty, you can rest assured that no one other than yourself will ever be able to read those files.
Second, using the above method, you can email the encrypted container just as you would any other file and be free from the fear of others snooping on your emails.
You could then tell the receiving person the passphrase, preferably in person and in private and at a whisper and on a deserted island. 🙂
Now, it would be unfair and untrue to say that encryption is unbreakable, but let’s do some math and estimate how long it would take to break 256bit AES encryption.
The power of 256-bit AES encryption is awesome. To explain just how powerful it is takes numbers far larger than we can really make sense of to our brains… but it’s worth a try.
The “256-bit” part of the name means that the key which provides access to the protected content is 256 bits in length – that is, it is one of 2^256 possible combinations.
So imagine you have a file encrypted using 256-bit AES, and that you can sit just trying combinations to crack it open.
Let’s pick a crazy-high number: say you can try a million million million combinations every millisecond. At that rate, it would take about 3 million million million million million million million million years to try every combination. That’s older than your grandma.
It’s more combinations than there are atoms on the whole planet. About 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times more to be precise.
For it to take “only” as long as the age of the universe to crack, you’d need to type in about 2.8 x 1059 combinations per second – that’s 280,000 with 9 “millions” after it.
That’s why AES is considered, for now, an unbeatable encryption. The NSA have approved it to protect information classified as “top secret” – and that is genuinely the top endorsement possible.
I said “darn near certainty” above because of this: If you ever write down or share in anyway the passphrase, you have weakened the security. But that aside, if it forever remains in your noggin, no one in the current form of human evolution will ever read your data, short of reading your mind.
Do not forget newer operating systems include encryption that works very well, this will prevent access to your system and files but not so when sending information as mentioned above.
Did I mention, the most important point to remember here is: DO NOT FORGET YOUR PASSPHRASE!!