Free file encryption software to keep your data safe
Here we tell you what you can do to protect sensitive files stored on your PC. These tools should keep them safe from cyber attacks or spying attempts.
Protecting your personal data is becoming increasingly important. However, encrypting your files for security purposes isn’t too difficult or too technical a process. The procedure is simple enough to be performed by almost anyone.
TrueCrypt was an extremely popular solution and the first choice of many. However, the TrueCrypt developers ended support for the encryption program in May last year (when Micorsoft stopped support for Windows XP). But there are still quite a few good encryption tools out there. Here are our picks.
Platforms: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
Based on TrueCrypt, VeraCrypt is a very simple tool for encryption – it doesn’t have any fancy features. It is useful for creating encrypted drives and volumes, and can even be used for on-the-fly encryption. It uses AES, Serpent and Twofish ciphers and even allows you to create a hidden volume within another for extra security. With the newest version you can also load volumes that you’ve created using TrueCrypt. Try it if you want something simple and if you already love the now defunct TrueCrypt.
Platforms: Windows; Linux, Mac OS X and Ubuntu (all unofficial)
7-Zip isn’t just for compressing files to send via email. You can also use its encryption capabilities to lock down access to a file – it uses 256-bit AES encryption, and so is a powerful encryption tool too. It is officially available for Windows, but there are unofficial versions for a ton of operating systems including Linux, Mac OS X and Ubuntu, and what’s great about it is that it’s free even for commercial use.
This simple and lightweight program works only on Windows and has a slightly less robust 128-bit AES encryption. However, it allows you to work with encrypted files simply by double-clicking on them – files are decrypted for use and modification, and then automatically encrypted again when you close them.
Platforms: Windows, Mac OS X
Free for non-commercial use only, MEO is from NCH Software for file encryption and uses a 256-bit Blowfish cipher. The simple interface allows for self-extracting encrypted files which don’t require the program to decrypt. You can even encrypt files by right clicking them, as the software provides for a shell extension.
Platforms: Windows (only certain versions)
The good thing about BitLocker is that it comes built into the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, the Pro and Enterprise versions of Windows 8 and 8.1, and Windows Server 2008 and newer. Primarily intended for encrypting your entire disk, BitLocker can also be used to restrict access to volumes and drives. It is a useful tool to implement in the event that your laptop is lost or stolen.
Your favourite encryption tool didn’t feature here? Tell us about it in the comments section below.