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How to encrypt your cloud storage for free

Brad Chacos | Sept. 26, 2012
If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself. That may sound like a trite cliche, but the maxim rings true when it comes to securing files that you've stored online: A handful of recent incidents--including breaches of Dropbox and iCloud--underscores the fact that even with built-in encryption and SSL transfers, cloud storage providers can't perfectly ensure the sanctity of your data.

If you want something done right, you need to do it yourself. That may sound like a trite cliche, but the maxim rings true when it comes to securing files that you've stored online: A handful of recent incidents--including breaches of Dropbox and iCloud--underscores the fact that even with built-in encryption and SSL transfers, cloud storage providers can't perfectly ensure the sanctity of your data.

Luckily, however, you can take cloud security into your own hands.

A few different tools can help safeguard the privacy of your data when you store it on a remote server. One of our favorites is BoxCryptor, an easy-to-use encryption program that works with all the popular cloud services, is free to use (though you can pay for upgrades), and can help keep your data safe.

BoxCryptor is basically a virtual hard disk that encrypts files on the fly using 256-bit AES encryption. Unlike TrueCrypt, another popular on-the-fly encryption tool, BoxCryptor encrypts individual files, not an entire volume or container. That means that your BoxCryptor-encrypted files sync with your cloud storage service immediately after you save them, whereas with TrueCrypt syncing occurs only after you finish encrypting an entire volume.

BoxCryptor works by encrypting and decrypting your files locally, and doesn't transmit your password to any third parties. In other words, your files will remain unreadable to outsiders even if hackers manage to steal your password, or otherwise breach the defenses of your cloud storage provider.

Setting up BoxCryptor is fairly painless, but the service does have a few nuances that could throw you for a loop. I'll get into those after discussing the differences between the various BoxCryptor offerings and showing how to get the encryption software up and running.

Which version of BoxCryptor is right for you?

BoxCryptor comes in three versions: one that's free, an Unlimited Personal version that costs $40 and an Unlimited Business version that costs $100. Free Android and iPhone apps are also available.

The free version should work just fine for many people. It lets you operate a single virtual hard disk for encrypting/decrypting files (more on how to do that later). Upgrading to the Unlimited Personal version enables multiple virtual drives that allow you to access several encrypted folders simultaneously; it also lets you encrypt file names, not just file contents. The Business license is the same as the Unlimited Personal license, but includes a legal clause that allows you to use it in the workplace.

Installing BoxCryptor

The first step in setting up BoxCryptor is simply figuring out how to download the right program from the BoxCryptor website. The row of gray icons at the top of the download page looks like a simple informative image, but you'll actually need to click on the icon of your operating system to snag the installation file.

 

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