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Tools for the paranoid: 5 free security tools to protect your data

Erez Zukerman | Feb. 4, 2013
Whether we work with trade secrets or just prefer to keep our stock trades secret, we all have data that's invaluable to us—and valuable to online evildoers. Here are five free tools for protecting passwords, browsing anonymously, and encrypting our most precious documents.

For browsing securely: Tor Browser Bundle

Tor Browser Bundle

Judicious use of KeePass and TrueCrypt is more than enough for creating a very secure environment. We now officially leave essential apps territory and enter realms of luxury (or paranoia, depending on how you look at it). If you want to beef up your Internet browsing security as well, the Tor Browser Bundle is the way to go.

The Tor network provides a way to browse anonymously. When you connect to Tor, all of your Internet traffic is encrypted and routed through a complex network of anonymous nodes until it reaches its final destination. It's not 100 percent secure, but then again, no security solution is. Tor has been around since 2002, and has been field-tested in rough situations in Egypt and other oppressive regimes that restrict Internet access. It works.

Tor Browser Bundle is a portable, self-extracting package that contains a special version of Firefox, along with an application for connecting to Tor. Extract the bundle, double-click "Start Tor Browser," and the connection window comes up and steps through an initialization sequence. You don't have to do anything; just wait a moment while the progress bar fills up. As soon as a secure connection with Tor is established, Firefox loads, and you can start browsing.

Since Tor routes your data through so many layers and random endpoints, it's not exactly blazing fast. Then again, most of us don't live under a regime that makes Tor a necessary part of our daily browsing routines. For occasional use, it's an elegant solution that manages to simplify a complex security system down to a double-click.

For hiding information in plain sight: OpenPuff

OpenPuff

Steganography, or hiding messages in plain sight, is a storied practice dating back to ancient Greece. In modern practice, steganography means taking a media file such as an MP3 or a JPEG image and burying data in it. The file still works as usual, and if you don't specifically look for the hidden data, you'll have no idea that the encrypted information is even there. In other words, you could hide an important text message in an innocent image file, and then post that file publicly online. Another party could then download the file and--using a steganography tool and a password that you both shared in advance--process the file and extract whatever information you've buried in it. One good tool for this purpose is OpenPuff, a powerful open-source steganography application that supports a wide variety of "carrier" formats for hiding data, including MP3, JPEG, and more.

 

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