With an increasing amount of business and personal data being stored on digital devices, it’s important that data is safe from prying eyes. Using encryption is a sure fire way to keep your data safe and unreadable to anyone but the owner. Encryption can be done on single files, virtual drives, or the entire hard drive including operating system. So which encryption method is easiest and most secure?
By far the most practical method of encryption is storing your confidential files on a virtual drive. Truecrypt which is a free and open source encryption program will do just that. Truecrypt will create a single encrypted file on your computer and then trick Windows into mounting it so it thinks it’s a separate hard drive partition. You can then store all your important files on that “partition”. Each time you mount the said partition you will have to enter a secure password to do so. Once mounted files will be encrypted and decrypted on the fly. If you wish to transfer your partition to another computer you can copy the single Truecrypt file onto a USB thumb stick depending on the size.
Another option of encryption is to encrypt the whole operating system and hard drive. When a person attempts to read your hard drive everything will look like scrambled data. Only when you enter your password at boot will files be readable. This environment should be used when everything you do on that PC is considered sensitive. Remember that if you lose your encryption password your entire operating system along with all files on that hard drive will never be readable again.
Other programs allow you to encrypt single files without making an entire virtual drive. This is ideal for people who don’t have a lot of private files. Maybe you want to save your tax return files on your PC or your bank account transaction. In most cases creating a virtual partition is the ideal way to secure files.
The most important choice when securing your files is choosing a proper encryption. AES is one of the strongest available methods of encryption. AES uses the simple fact that even the fastest super computers can’t do math fast enough to come up with combinations of prime numbers. For now AES for all practical purposes can’t be broken. It is thought that within the next 10-20 years AES will be able to be broken with faster and faster super computers.