The most normal thing is to save all the files on our computer in the normal way, without encryption or any other additional protection measure. If our computer is properly protected, these data will be safe, since nobody will be able to access them. However, if someone manages to access our computer, all this information will be compromised. The same happens if we decide to send a file over the Internet to another person or save it in the cloud. If we do not use anything to encrypt the files, anyone who gets access to it will be able to access all its content without any impediment.
Encrypt files: the best way to protect our data
To encrypt, or encrypt, a file is to convert all the content of the file (be it a photo, a document, or whatever type of file it is) into other content generated from an algorithm so that it is unreadable and impossible to understand. In this way, if someone tries to open the file and does not have the corresponding password (or decryption key), they will not be able to access the original content.
We can find two different types of encryption. Symmetric encryption (faster and more convenient), in which the encryption and decryption key is the same, and asymmetric encryption (more secure), in which two different keys are used, one for encryption (public) and one for decryption (private).
Encrypting by hand is an almost impossible task today. Therefore, if we want to protect our data and prevent it from falling into the hands of unauthorized people, we must resort to specialized programs for this purpose, such as the ones we will see below.
Best programs to encrypt or encrypt files in Windows
One of the best known programs to encrypt and protect files is BitLocker. This program does not allow the encryption of individual files (for this we will have to use some of the other alternatives that we are going to see), but it is the official Microsoft tool, included in Windows 10, to encrypt internal, external hard drives and USB sticks by full.
When we encrypt a drive with BitLocker, all its content is encrypted. We can use it without problems as long as we have the unit unlocked. However, the moment we disconnect the computer, the data is obfuscated, and if we do not have the password it will be impossible to access them. This program uses the XTS-AES algorithm to encrypt the data.
This program is not downloaded from anywhere. But in order to use it, we need to have the Pro version of Windows 10 installed on our computer. In the Home versions this program is not available.
VeraCrypt is the spiritual successor to TrueCrypt after the original project disappeared. This program is, for many, one of the best alternatives to BitLocker. VeraCrypt allows us, on the one hand, to encrypt hard drives, USB sticks and all kinds of drives just like BitLocker does (we can even encrypt the Windows drive), and on the other hand, it allows us to create secure virtual hard drives. These are one of the biggest attractions of this program. We can create a unit of a specific size of GB and save in it all the data that we want. When we close the program, the virtual drive is dismounted and all the data is stored safely, making it impossible to access it without the password.
This program is open source and has undergone a multitude of security audits, making it one of the best ways we have to protect our files. We can download this program for free from the following link .
While the above two programs may seem a bit complicated, AES Crypt ranks as one of the best easy alternatives for being able to encrypt any file with a few clicks, with no hassle or setup. This program, available for Windows, macOS and Linux, is integrated into the context menu of our operating system and allows us to apply 256-bit encryption with an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm to any file on the system.
To decrypt the data the process is the same. We simply have to right-click on it, choose the decrypt option, enter the password and that’s it.
We can download this program for free from its website .
WinRAR, 7Zip or any archive compressor
Beyond the specific encryption programs, a quick way to protect our files, which we all surely have at hand, is to use a file compressor. The programs to compress files, such as WinRAR, WinZip, 7Zip or PeaZip, have a function that allows us to protect the data with a password. What it does, broadly speaking, is encrypt all the files stored inside the package so that, if the user does not have the password, they cannot extract them.
This is not the best way to encrypt and protect files. But its ease, coupled with the fact that virtually everyone has a file compressor on hand, is a quick way to avoid sending and sharing our data without any protection.
Easy File Locker
Easy File Locker is one of the smallest programs that we will find to encrypt files. This program is less than 225 KB and its operation is focused on what it promises: protecting files easily. This tool can protect the files we want with a password to prevent others from opening them, lock them to prevent them from being deleted or modified, or directly hide them on the computer so that no one can access these files.
Another open source program to encrypt and protect files is Cryptomator. This program is mainly aimed at those users who use the cloud and want to keep their files safe and out of reach of large companies or any user who can enter the cloud without permission. This program will allow us to create a private folder linked to the cloud that we are going to use. All data passing through it will be encrypted using a 256-bit AES algorithm, and once encrypted it will be sent to the cloud.
The encrypted folder will be saved in the cloud. If we try to access the data we will see that these are obfuscated and unreadable. If we do not use this program (previously unlocked by our password) we will not be able to access the data.
We can download this program for free from this link . This program is free and open source, but some of its functions require the payment of a license.
File Lock PEA
File Lock PEA (PEA = Password Encrypting Archive) is another very simple program to encrypt and protect all types of files in Windows. This program is written in java (and is open source) and is designed to work as an additional security layer to disk encryption. This program is responsible for encrypting files with a password that we do not want other people to see. And when we unlock them, it obfuscates the RAM so that neither the files nor the keys can be recovered from it.
A very simple and very useful program that we can download from the following link .
Axcrypt is another of the safest programs to encrypt and protect files, although it is paid. This software has very strong encryption (128 or 256 bit AES) so that all the files protected with it are impossible to recover. This program is designed to integrate with the cloud and encrypt files before uploading them to Dropbox or Google Drive, as well as having its own secure password manager to protect our online keys.
We can download this program from its main website .