Every day more and more users are hooking up to a WAN (Wide Area Network), or a LAN (Local Area Network), or just letting others have access to their computer. Do you have a DSL or cable modem that keeps your computer connected to the Internet 24 hours a day? Maybe you have a home network where others have access to your files, or you
share your laptop between home and work.
We all have files that we want to keep to ourselves, be they financial, your new invention, or your passwords. There
is lots of firewall software that will help you
to protect yourself from internet hackers. There are many utilities that will hide or encrypt
your files from snoopers who have access to your computer. But how secure are they, and how can you
be sure you are safe?
Firewall software is a necessity for those that have a DSL or CABLE
Internet connection. However no one
with the exception of highly experienced System Administrators and
firewall programmers understand what is really going on with a firewall setup. The average user installs the programs with the defaults and prays it protects them without shutting them off from the things they want to do. Nobody except
a die-hard propeller head wants to configure their firewall
... let alone understand how it works.
I have a cable modem that is plugged into a NAT Server that is protected by a tight firewall. However I still had an unsettling feeling about
the safety of some of my data files and directories. I live in earthquake country, so I routinely backup my data drive to a zip file and upload it to the
NOSPIN Servers. I have been using various types of encryption
to protect that zip file, but I wanted something that would
provide me a level of security that even the new supercomputer at Livermore couldn't crack!
I found two programs that suited me. One is freeware and one is shareware.
KPKFileFile by John Rossi is an extremely easy to use encryption program that will protect a folder(s) on your computer. This simple and clean interface allows you to access all functions.
KPKFile creates a folder on your hard drive. The folder can be wherever and whatever you wish. You can then put files or subdirectories in the folder. When you finish you use
KPKFile to close the folder. KPKFile will then encrypt the folder and remove it. What you will end up with is a couple of files at the top of your Windows directory that look like this
01/30/2001 01:43a 58,051,975 (jbfidcdc).dat
12/27/2000 08:41p 58,051,957 (jbfidcdc).old
You will have a set of these for each directory you create. After
KPKFile closes the folder
there may be a root folder or a subfolder that KPKFile can't delete, and it will ask you to
manually delete anything left behind. There aren't any files in the folders. This inability to clean up the folder is the only flaw I have found in the program, and may only occur when operating in Windows 2000.
However I found it to be only a minor bug.
When it comes to security, half or more of the battle can be won by stealth alone. If no one knows there is an encrypted file, then no attempt will be made to crack it.
KPKFile has one other little trick which is very cool. KPKFile
will hang your encrypted file on the end of a legitimate working document or graphics file. If you use this approach then I suggest you keep the
KPKFile directory and shortcut as innocuous as possible, so it doesn't look like you have security software installed on your computer.
Every new root folder … not subfolders … will have it's own separate password or more appropriate
... key. You can not create Folder1 on drive C and Folder2 on drive D
and use the same key. KPKFile differentiates between folders by the key. To open the folder it will ask you for
the key ... not the folder name. Do not loose your key. Encryption programs don't use a password to open the files,
they use a key. That key is part of the actual code that then opens the
files. Lose the key and you have lost the files.
Suppose you want to be really sure no one can access your files, or you want to zip up a drive and store it on a off line server, but you want to be absolutely positive that no one will be able to access it. Then give
Absolute Security by Pepsoft
a try. Absolute Security is shareware and comes in two flavors. The
Standard version which uses DES encryption $39.00, and the
Pro version $59.00 which uses the even more secure Blowfish encryption. Either one is very strong encryption.
DES (Data Encryption Standard) is based on a 56-bit encryption key length and is routinely used by the banking
and financial community. Around four years ago, it was widely reported in the national press that the UC Berkley computer science department had managed to crack the DES inscription for Mastercharge. I attended a CISCO conference on Internet security where it was pointed out that the key for a single transaction was indeed cracked, but it took the majority of the computers in the computer lab at Berkley four days to crack the first number of a 10 digit key.
Modern computers are much faster then they were then, but DES has also evolved to version III which is
even harder to crack.
For those who don't want to sweat it even if you are
protecting classified documents, then you can't do better then Blowfish, which is an extremely strong encryption engine that features a 448-bit key length.
Blowfish is so secure that Americans can not export this encryption outside of the U.S.
Absolute Security couldn't be easier to use. It is much like using explorer, and If you want to leave
it running there is a convenient roll up feature to keep it out of the way.
From this interface you can secure email attachments that can be sent and opened by the recipient with just the
key. You can create a protected list so that any encrypted email sent to you will automatically be decrypted. You can even use the program to perform secure wipes of file deletions.
You can create self decrypting files that can be transported and accessed without
using the program, or can be sent to recipients that only have the key. Pepsoft has even made available a free Decryptor that can be used to decrypt files made by Absolute Security. This allows you to provide someone with the reader and then send them secure
files. I have bundled the two Pepsoft trial programs and free
Decryptor into one zip file for
Absolute Security requires that you use at least a 10 digit key. Here is a good way to come up with a secure key you can live with. Take out a dictionary. Without looking at it randomly open it up and put your finger on the page. Write that word down. Now do it again. Put those two words together. Do you have at least seven letters?
If not stick your finger in the dictionary again and add another word and then put three numbers at the end. Say it a few times and a see if you can live with it. You don't want to write this down anywhere and you don't want to use this one very often. Just for your most secure stuff.
I like this approach rather then using a password generator because I can
come up with a
random combination of words that I will be able to remember. I can
then tack a number on the end of the two words that means something to me. The result is a secure 10 plus digit password or key that I can remember.
So go ahead and store those classified files on your hard
drive. Stick your Christmas list on there! One of these
three programs should be able to handle any encryption or file
security requirement that you have.