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Hands-on: miniLock's powerful file encryption is dead simple to use

Ian Paul | Aug. 5, 2014
The creator of Cryptocat, Nadim Kobeissi, is back with another easy-to-use encryption tool. This time it's a Chrome app that aims to make it easy to create and share single encrypted files with others. Called miniLock, the app is freely available on the Chrome Web Store.

In my tests, miniLock was fairly picky about passphrases. I tried using a 10-character randomly generated passphrase with capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. That's a fairly solid password if you ask me — but for miniLock it wasn't strong enough.

Instead, the app suggested I use one of its auto-generated passphrases, which was a series of random dictionary words. To make things easier, I used one of the series generated by miniLock, but you could also write your own. Just make sure it's memorable and unique enough that you won't forget it. Otherwise, storing it in a password manager will be important. As with other encryption tools, if you lose that passphrase, you won't be able to unlock any files sent to you with that miniLock ID.

Once you've got your miniLock ID share it far and wide. That's mine in the picture up at the top of this section.

Encrypting

Now that you've got your own ID set-up, let's encrypt a file to see how it works. This should go without saying, but make sure you back-up the test file in unencrypted form just in case something goes wrong.

To choose a file, either tap the file drop area in the miniLock window or drag a file from File Explorer and drop it in the miniLock window. Once it gets a file to encrypt, you'll see the miniLock window flip around and reveal space for entering up to four miniLock IDs.

By default, your miniLock ID will be at the top, as you are the person encrypting the file.

Below that, you have the option to add another three people to encrypt the file — assuming you have their miniLock ID. If you wanted to send this file to one person and didn't want to have access to it yourself, you can just press the "X" to the far right of your miniLock ID to remove your key.

You also have an option underneath the file name for miniLock to create a random file name if you wanted to be really secretive about what you're sending.

Once the ID's for every recipient are ready to go, tap the arrow at the bottom of the window to encrypt. Depending on the size of the file, it could take a few seconds or a few minutes to finish.

After it's done, the app will say "Your encrypted file is ready" in small letters below the file name. Next, click on the file name to save the file to your PC via Chrome's downloads manager.

Now that you've got an encrypted file, you can send it to the intended recipients any way you like: email, instant messaging, USB key, Facebook...the choices are endless.

 

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