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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.

Once you have it, you'll need to double-click the file to start the installation wizard, then choose Create a new BoxCryptor folder. The next screen will ask you to choose a location for the encrypted folder. The destination can be an offline local folder, but the big draw for BoxCryptor is that it works with any cloud storage service that creates a local directory on your PC, such as the desktop clients for Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive or Sugar Sync. Most cloud storage services create a local directory in C:/Users/*UserName by default. After you choose the destination folder, enter a name for the BoxCryptor folder that you're creating.

Next, you'll need to choose a drive letter designation for the virtual disk. Be sure to pick one that isn't already being used. (I chose S: for SkyDrive.) Finally, create a password, and you're good to go. I strongly recommended creating a backup of your BoxCryptor configuration file when prompted, since you'll lose the ability to descramble your data if you accidentally delete the config file and don't have a spare handy.

Reboot your PC after closing the wizard to complete the installation process. The virtual drive will appear alongside your physical drives when the computer restarts.

Using BoxCryptor

Here's the tricky part: You can't just drag files into the BoxCryptor.bc folder that the software creates in your cloud storage directory. If you do that, the files won't be encrypted. Instead, you'll need to deposit your files directly into BoxCryptor's virtual drive--S: in my case. Doing so will also make them appear in your cloud storage folder in encrypted form.

Similarly, the only way to unencrypt your files is to withdraw them via the same virtual drive. If you try to snag your files directly through the BoxCryptor.bc folder they'll still be encrypted and you won't be able to read them.

This regimen makes accessing your files on the road a bit of a hassle, but even the free version of BoxCryptor allows users to access cloud-stored encrypted folders, assuming you have both BoxCryptor and your cloud service's desktop client installed on your PC. BoxCryptor also offers an Android app that lets you access your encrypted SkyDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox files after you enter your BoxCryptor password. An iOS app is available, but it works only with Dropbox.

Since all the encryption and decryption action happens on BoxCryptor's virtual drive, you'll likely have no reason ever to wander into the BoxCryptor.bc folder stored in your cloud drive. If you do, however, be very, very careful not to move or delete the encfs6.xml file. That's the configuration key needed to decrypt your files. If you move or delete it, you will be unable to decrypt your files.

 

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