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Disk Encryption Software – An Overview
Before proceeding to our disk encryption software comparison, let's take a look at what disk encryption software does and why we need it. Data, as such, is stored in binary form that one can read using the program which created it. In other words, if you create a file in MS Word, it stores data in binary form. The format of arranging the binary data is specific to the application (MS Word) and hence, only MS Word can read it. If you have saved it in a text format, any text editor can also read it. Besides, the file associations in Windows make it very easy to open a file – by double clicking it.
There is always a high risk that someone unauthorized may read your data when you transfer it over the Internet, save it on the hard disk, or carry it on any external storage medium - such as a pen drive or a CD. Anyone who can access these storage mediums can easily access your files and read them. There are some provisions in MS Office and other programs that offer password protection, which is not of much use. Hackers, or malicious users, can always crack the password and read the files. The best method is to encrypt the file or still better, to encrypt the entire disk. Some applications such as Office 2007 and Adobe offer you the facility of data encryption for each file you save. It is, however, easy for an expert to crack these regular encryption methods.
Data encryption refers to securing the data/files by masking the original data using one or more algorithms. One of the first data encryption methods I can recall was to invert the data bits. This way, if anyone intended to read the encrypted data, it would not make any sense. Another early method was to create a random number and add/multiply it to the ASCII codes of each character in your file so that it became hard for people to understand it even if they opened your files successfully. These are just two examples of data encryption. To read the data/file encrypted using the random number generator, the data had to be converted to normal, readable data – a process called decryption. This means that all data encryption software products need to have the capability of encryption as well as decryption of data.
This also means that the efficiency of any disk encryption software depends on the algorithms it employs - to create unbreakable mask for your data! Check out this Bright Hub article on methods of data encryption.
As the trend of networks and constant connectivity to the Internet has increased, the need for data encryption has also increased. No one would like to have someone else snooping his private/confidential data – be it from inside the network or from outside. In our article on computer security, we spoke about port knocking and packet sniffing. If such people gain access to your computer storage, they can easily take control of your computer or misuse the data stored on your computer. To prevent this, you need the best disk encryption software. If you encrypt the entire disk, you protect and thereby reduce the chances of any unauthorized person reading your data.
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To better facilitate this disk encryption software comparison, I will list the most essential features of each software product. This will help you determine the best solution for your needs. There are plenty of free disk encryption software programs for Windows too. Most of them are open-source. Open source disk encryption software applications are often the best bet as they allow updating the algorithms on a regular basis. However, anyone with expertise can easily interpret an old program. I recommend you to check the date before you download any such free, open-source disk encryption software. Another advantage of open-source disk encryption software is that you can yourself play with the encryption algorithm to alter the encryption method. For this, you need to know the language used to create the software. Among the choices, TrueCrypt is one of the best disk encryption software products.
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TrueCrypt – Open Source Disk Encryption Software
TrueCrypt employs algorithms such as AES256 and TwoFish. It creates a file out of the encrypted disk and mounts it as the real disk. In other words, when anyone tries to access data from the disk, s/he actually is accessing data from the encrypted file, if authorized.
Apart from the fact that it is free open source disk encryption software, you can also use it to encrypt removable disks including USB flash drives. The feature which makes it the one of best disk encryption solutions is that it also encrypts the system volume, meaning you have to enter a password even before the computer boots. Please note that this password is different from the BIOS password.
TrueCrypt works in real time, encrypting and decrypting files as you create and open them. The program works on Windows, Linux, and Mac. TrueCrypt is available for download only from its official website
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SafeBit – Encryption Software for Commercial and Personal Use
SafeBit works along the same lines as TrueCrypt. This software also employs AES256 as the algorithm. AES256 is one of the best disk encryption algorithm that is hard to decrypt. SafeBit encryption software also works in real time. It encrypts files as you save them and decodes them as you open it. If you're on a network, you can invoke user rights to provide added protection.
You can also use SafeBit encryption software to create encrypted files that you may call safes. You can store your passwords for these safes on USB portable drives. No one can interpret the contents of these safes unless you insert the USB portable device that serves like a key to the "safe." The disk encryption software allows you to create multiple copies of your "safes" - doubling up as a backup program. It includes a firewall to keep spyware and hackers at bay. It also includes a virtual keyboard so that you are safe from keyloggers.
A trial version is available for the SafeBit encryption software at http://www.safebit.net/download.html
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Dekart Private Disk – Commercial Encryption Software for Windows
Private Disk is yet another one of the best disk encryption software tools from "Dekart". The company also offers digital signature services. At a cost of around US$65, the application works with almost all versions of Windows – after Windows 95. Unlike TrueCrypt, this disk encryption software does not offer real time encryption. You have to run it manually. With a small file size of 1MB, you can carry it on a pen drive and launch it using a USB drive (you need not install it). However, it offers good disk encryption using AES256 algorithm.
Dekart Private Disk allows you to create several instances of encrypted disks so it also serves as a backup tool. It includes a firewall that restricts spyware and unwanted people from accessing your data. As soon as you close Private Disk, it automatically brings up the "Safely Remove Hardware" dialog so you do not lose any data by accident.
Dekart Private Disk offers you a month of free trial. You can download the best disk encryption software using the above link.
Note: This guide offers a comparison of three trusted disk encryption software programs. Plenty of software solutions are available all over the Internet. Before downloading, make sure that your disk encryption software does not contain any malware.