Free encryption software for Mac
Just because you are paranoid, it doesn’t mean that they are not out to get you. I remember back in the days of old when computers were still fairly new, one didn’t have to worry too much about security. I seem to remember that the biggest problem was with the early Internet police complaining to new users, if they put too long a signature at the end of an e-mail. Back then when we were using incredibly slow modems and a few bytes of extra text in an e-mail was thought to slow the whole Internet down. Nowadays though, we have the joy and pleasure of all the bad people in the world also making use of the Internet. If they are able to find a way to steal your information and use it, then the happier they are and the poorer you could be. We may not only need to worry about malware for Macs, but we might need to worry about our information being stolen. In this case we might need to be on the lookout for some free encryption software.
Keeping safe with free encryption software
It is possible to buy PGP for all of your encryption needs, but you might want to have a look at the perfectly good free alternatives. There are also a couple of ways that you can protect yourself with encryption software. Mainly this will come down to either going for file encryption software or you may decide that you would rather have whole disk encryption. The only thing with the whole disk encryption route, is that when you are sending a file to somebody else that file will not be encrypted. You will have no protection from the man in the middle attack. For this reason you might still want to check out some of the free file encryption software.
Using Mac encryption software
What is file encryption? Quite simply you can use software to encrypt files which use an algorithm to turn perfectly readable text or a viewable image into complete gibberish. The simple file encryption software for Mac, or indeed for PC will use one password as the key to open the encrypted file. If you lose that password then you will not be able to decrypt that file. I would recommend the use of an application like 1Passwordto look after your passwords, just in case. You can also use 1Password to encrypt the data that you put into it in the form of notes. In any case, the usual use for that application, is to organise your passwords for any online sites you visit and also for your personal details like credit card numbers etc.
Mac file encryption with a public and private key.
If you have an encryption software that only has one password to encrypt and decrypt a file, then if you want to have somebody send you an encrypted file, you will need to send them that password to encrypt it. Or they will do the encryption and send you the password that they used. This is not a particularly safe way of sending encrypted files across the Internet. Even though I am sure you would send the password separately from the encrypted file. Instead, what we have is a system that has a public key and a private key. The way that this Mac file encryption works, is that you make available a public key that anybody can see. That public key will encrypt file, but it will not decrypt the file. To decrypt the file you have to use your private key, which only you have and which you guard with your life. So you can safely send your public key to whoever, including to a public key server and still know that your data will be safe during transmission.
GPG free file encryption software from the Gnu
I have on a couple of occasions tried out the GPG file encryption software. It is an open source version of the PGP encryption software. I have found it easy-to-use for the encryption of files and it is pretty good as encryption tools go. The latest version that I have used, links into the e-mail application on the Mac and it is fairly seamless for someone to send you an encrypted file and for you to be able to decrypt it. You do also have to make sure that you remember your pass phrase, otherwise you will never be able to decrypt any encrypted files sent to you. We will have a proper look at GPG in another blog post.
DropKey file encryption software
Dropkey is not normally free encryption software, but at the moment in the Mac App Store, it is available for free. This offer is available until 19th of May 2012. The beauty of DropKey encryption software for Mac is that they have tried to make it as painless as possible. You still have a public key and a private key, but they generate a pass phrase for you. Your private key and the associated pass phrase are kept for you in your Mac OS X Keychain. When somebody sends you a file that has been encrypted using your public key, you will be able to decrypt that file and not have to remember the pass phrase.
Extra security when using Dropkey
The Mac file encryption software DropKey has a thing called two factor authentication. This is a way to ensure that the person who has sent you a public key is who they say they are. There are four random words generated by this file encryption software and all you have to do is to ask that person to tell you what those four words are. What you do then is to go to the key manager in DropKey to see that the four words match up. If they do matchup then you can verify that person within the key manager. Once you have done that, you can send files back and forth without having to verify again.
Can you send encrypted files to more than one person with DropKey
So long as you have the public key for each of those people that you want to send an encrypted file to, then it is no problem to have multiple recipients. You don’t even have to use the Apple mail application to be able to use encryption. All you have to do is to tell Dropkey to just encrypt file and then you can go to the finder to do whatever you want to do with that secure file. You can throw whatever file type you want to at Dropkey, be that a text file, video file or a movie file. DropKey is available as free encryption software for Mac and I would certainly recommend that you grab a copy of it and try it out. If any of you would like to test how it works then we can arrange to do a swap of our public keys. We can send each other encrypted messages, just for thrills and kicks.
My friend Tim sent me his public key for DropKey and I encrypted a file to send to him. He was at work when he set up DropKey and went home to set up on his other computer. Tim brought in the key to work on the same email address through auto synchronisation of iCloud and the weird thing is that the second computer would not decrypt the file I sent. Seems the second installation made a new key pair. Not too good I think. I was also disappointed that when I got the public key from Tim in that the software was not clever enough to ask me if Tim Verpoorten in my address book already was the same as Timothy Verpoorten as the name was on the DropKey public key he sent to me. In any case it should have matched the email address. SO some work to be done there, then.