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How to Encrypt Your Cloud Files

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How to Encrypt Your Cloud Files

Just a few years ago, keeping files secure was a simple task—you could move them to a thumb drive, delete any duplicate copies, and store the thumb drive in a safe location. As technology has advanced, however, data security has had to adapt to usability, and that means adjusting for Cloud sharing and storage.

Moving your secure documents and files into Cloud storage can feel risky, but you can combat the risk with proper encryption. If you’re new to the realm of data encryption and Cloud storage, keep reading to learn what encryption is and how you can use different encryption methods to keep your Cloud-based files safe and secure.

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What Is Encryption?

Every file or piece of data on a computer exists as a series of characters that gets interpreted by various programs on your computer. In its most basic form, encryption uses a predetermined pattern to change those characters, scrambling them so they can’t be used. Only the user who holds the encryption key—usually accessed with a password—can unscramble the data again.

Once used almost exclusively by security techs, encryption is now a tool that can and should be used by the masses. In the words of Taylor Miller, security expert at ATTSavings, “Encryption is no longer the purview of government officials and hackers; it has never been easier to make your files safe.”

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There are many procedures used for encryption, but Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is among the most secure out there. Files can be encrypted to AES in three ways: native password-based encryption, app-based encryption, or Cloud-based encryption. Here’s a closer look at each method.

1. Native, Password-Based Encryption

If you have ever used password protection on a document with Microsoft Office, you’ve used a form of native encryption. This encryption method is fairly basic, but it can be effective if you’ve chosen a complex, hard-to-crack password. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all have password-based encryption options, as does Adobe Acrobat.

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Pros:

  • Native encryption is easy to use—you don’t have to go through another program to handle the encryption.
  • Native encryption requires no external software, and other users can access your files simply by knowing the password.

Cons:

  • Depending on the program you’re working with, there may not be a native encryption option.
  • Natively encrypted files may run into compatibility problems between different versions of the same software.
  • On certain programs, AES isn’t set as the default encryption standard. In these instances, you may need to change the encryption setting to AES, which ensures maximum security.

2. Application-Based Encryption

If you want to go a step beyond native, password-based encryption, consider using an encryption software application. These apps have become very user friendly in recent years. Some programs allow you to encrypt entire folders or directories, providing automatic encryption for any additional files uploaded to those locations.

Pros:

  • Application-based encryption programs allow you to encrypt most files, regardless of the programs they come from.
  • Depending on the software you choose, you may be able to encrypt many files at once.
  • These programs often allow you to select your level of encryption.

Cons:

  • If you intend to share encrypted files, the users you share with may need to have the same encryption software.
  • While many encryption packages are free for private use, using a program commercially often requires the purchase of a commercial license, which can be very expensive.
  • You will likely need to move files out of your Cloud storage account before editing them to ensure proper encryption.

3. Cloud-Based Encryption

Some Cloud storage services have built-in encryption to protect your data. This method is good to use in tandem with another method listed here, as it effectively doubles up on the protection you’ve already got. Do note that not all Cloud storage providers offer encryption, so you’ll want to clarify what security protocol—if any—your host uses.

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Pros:

  • Like application-based encryption, Cloud-based encryption allows for encryption of any file, no matter which program the file or data originated in.
  • Depending on the Cloud service you choose, encryption may be automatic.
  • You won’t need any additional programs to decrypt the data you access.
  • Collaborators can easily access Cloud-encrypted files without compatibility issues—all they need is the password to access the hosting account.

Cons:

  • Like offline encryption software, using encrypted Cloud hosting commercially will likely require extra money for licensing.
  • Some services store encryption keys internally, which can be problematic if the host experiences a breach.

Cloud hosting makes collaboration—especially long-distance collaboration—much easier than it used to be. But that increased ease of use, needs specialized security to back it up. Fortunately, encryption is a great way to ameliorate some of those Cloud-based risks, so use one or more of the above methods to help ensure your data stays protected.

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Last Updated on November 25, 2021

How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

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How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

There comes a time when we may be searching online and don’t want the browser to remember our footsteps. The reasons don’t always have to be what we obviously think of as the main reason; for example, sometimes, you may not want Safari to remember your passwords or prompt you to enter your password when surfing the web.

Whatever the reason, we may think that we are totally in the clear with Private Browsing on Safari and the other browsers on a Mac. However, a quick Terminal command can bring up every website you’ve visited. How do you do this? Also, how do you clear your tracks for good? We will provide both answers and more today.

    What Does Private Browsing Do?

    When activated, Private Browsing on Safari prevents your browsing history from being kept in the history tab of the application. Along with this, it doesn’t autofill information that you have saved in the browser. In this mode, you essentially become incognito and any references of previous use is essentially hidden when you are in private mode.

    For example: if you are on Facebook or filling out a form and some information or your login is already filled in in the spaces provided, this is called autofill. It’s activated by simply clicking Safari next to the Apple symbol in the menubar and selecting Private Browsing, then clicking “OK” to the prompt.

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    The reasons behind private mode differ for each individual. While we won’t go into all of those reasons, one thing that is  important to remember is that private browsing doesn’t forget the websites you visit. As we will see later on, Macs keep a second copy of the websites you visit in either mode. If you are in frantic mode looking for a solution to this, look no further.

    The Terminal Archive

    While Safari does a good job of keeping your search history out of prying eyes in the history tab, there is a less-than-obvious way to view a full list of visited websites on Mac. This is done in Terminal; the command-line emulator that allows you to make changes to your Mac.

    Terminal is located in the Utilities folder on your Mac. Once activated, simply add the command:

    dscacheutil -cachedump -entries Host

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    Once you hit “enter”, a list of the visited sites appear. Showing only the domains, the sites appear in a format of:

    Key: h_name :(website domain)ipv4 :1

    However, there’s no need to fear—there is a way you can clear this information from Terminal with a command that’s just as simple.

    Clearing Your Tracks

    Just as simply as you were able to enter the command to view the websites, you can clear the cache that Terminal showed you with the comamnd:

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    dscacheutil -flushcache

    As the command denotes, this literally “flushes” the domains from Terminal. This does not prevent the record from continuing to be recorded for future sites, however, so if that’s an issue for you, repeat this process regularly.

    Other Browsers and Private Browsing

    Other browsers have this form of privacy mode for their service. They promise many of the same things as Safari, but they do not have the same Terminal issue due to how this command only presents websites visited on Safari (the browser Macs come shipped with).

    If you use Firefox, you’ll notice that its private mode is also known as Private Browsing. Chrome calls private mode Incognito, while Internet Explorer refers to it as InPrivate Browsing. Opera is the newest to the scene, denoting it as Private Tab. Safari is the oldest well-known browser with this feature.

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    As you can see, despite Private Browsing not being 100% private, Terminal allows for your browser to be. In what ways has Terminal helped your life or allowed you to become more productive? Let us know in the comments below.

    Featured photo credit: Benjamin Dada via unsplash.com

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