We tend to work with important, private and confidential information that we do not want to reach the hands of any person and who can use it against us. Personal information, confidential work information , studies, research … There are documents that we do not want to share or endanger. In addition, we do not always work on our own computer but we share space or office with other people and we want our documents are not available to anyone. In this case, it is best to encrypt the files we use so that nobody can access them without our permission.
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What is encryption?
According to the Royal Spanish Academy, encrypting or encrypting is “transcribe with figures, letters or symbols, according to a code, a message or text whose content you want to protect.” That is, protect our files or folders with documents so that no one accesses without our permission and can see what there is. Encryption consists in using an encryption algorithm and with a key or password that alter the origin of the data in a document or folder so that it cannot be read by a third party in case it reaches them.
In the case of encrypting documents on a computer, we usually use AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) type block encryption. This is a type of symmetric encryption that uses an algorithm in which the files are encrypted with a password and decipher with this same key. Using a password you can return the data to its original state and view the content.
If you have an encrypted hard disk or an encrypted pendrive, for example, when you save or copy a file to that disk, it is automatically encrypted and decrypted or decrypted at the time you remove it from the disk that is encrypted.
Programs to Encrypt Documents
Whatever document you are using, there are programs responsible for encrypting them so that they are protected and that your information remains confidential. This is useful if you have private data that you do not want anyone to see or if you are going to upload it to a cloud storage solution and want to further improve privacy. Anyway, there are programs to encrypt documents for which you will not have to pay anything and that are compatible with all types of operating systems.
One of the best free tools to encrypt or encrypt is Cryptomator, a simple, open source software that does not require any type of registration and is compatible with most operating systems such as Windows, macOS, Linux or Android or iOS for mobile phones . What Cryptomator allows us is to create a kind of large folder encrypted with AES protocol, as if it were a safe, and no one can access without our permission. In this “box” you can put all kinds of files that you do not want anyone to see without the correct unlock code.
The advantage of Cryptomator is that it not only allows you to create a protected folder in your computer locally but you can also do it in Dropbox or Google Drive and you will have synchronized documents stored in the cloud storage without anyone can read them without your Excuse me. Another of the main advantages is that you can download it for your mobile phone with iOS and Android applications although in this case you will have to pay 9.99.
BitLocker is the tool offered by Microsoft if you have a Professional or Enterprise version of Windows and allows you to encrypt any type of file or content: from your computer’s internal hard drive or boot disks but also encrypt a USB that you connect or connect to. External hard drives that you want or need to use. In this case, BitLocker uses XTS-AES with a 128-bit key for internal or data disks or an AES-CBC algorithm with 128-bit key for external disks. However, this can be changed to be AES-XTS 256 bits, although you must keep in mind that in the first Windows 10 and previous operating systems (such as Windows 8.1, Windows 8 or Windows 7) it will not be compatible with this type of encryption .
If you have a version of Windows 10 (other than the Home edition) you can enable device encryption easily, as you can read on the Microsoft website itself. Simply log in to Windows with the Administrator account, go to the Start button and follow these steps:
- Open Start
- Go to Settings
- Access Update and security
- Go to Device Encryption
- Select the “Activate” option
You can also enable standard BitLocker device encryption:
- Login with administrator account
- Go to the Start button
- Search Windows System
- Choose Control Panel
- Select System and security
- Choose BitLocker Drive Encryption
- Select Manage BitLocker
- Activate BitLocker
- Follow the instructions indicated by the program
AES Crypt is an encryption software that you can use in macOS, Linux or Windows and that is completely free and open source. Once you download the tool on your computer, it integrates with the menu so you will always have it on hand to encrypt any file without any complications. That is, once you download and install this software and click on the right button of any file, you will see that it appears among the options and that you can add the password. It is very simple to handle and will create a new file, encrypted with the key you have chosen, that you can use for whatever you need.
To read files with AES Crypt the operation is the same as to encrypt or encrypt: right click on the document in question, the menu with options will open and you can read this software. Once you choose it, enter the password that the file had and it will be ready to open, read or edit as you wish.
How to Encrypt Files in Word
If you have any document in Word that you need to protect, you can encrypt using any of the above methods but you can also use the Microsoft Word encryption method to protect the file. Once you do this, only the person with the encryption key or password can access the content of the document and read it, so it is especially important in cases of private files that you do not want anyone to see.
To encrypt a document, you will have to follow some very simple steps and they will protect it with a password:
- Open the file you want to protect
- Go to the “File” section in the upper left corner
- Open Information
- Click on “Protect Document”
- Choose the option “Encrypt with password”
- Enter a password you want
- Confirm the chosen password again
Once you have followed these steps, you will have to type the password correctly to access this Word file. You can always unprotect the file again by following the same steps and deleting the password you entered. Of course, to remove the password you will have to know it since you will have to do it from within.
Cracking Word Encryption
It is not easy to crack the protection of a Word file if you have one of the most recent versions of the program. Most of the tricks and applications dedicated to cracking encryption are based on old versions but if you have an old file on your computer and want to open it now, you can try some of these tricks.
One of the easiest ways and without installing anything is to insert the file. This is a trick that will not serve you in the most modern versions but in the previous versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and you will not have to know the password to read the document:
- Go to Word and open a blank document
- Click on the “Insert …” option
- Choose “Object”
- Click on “Insert text from file…”
- Search the encrypted document
- You accept
- The text will be copied into the new Word document
As we say, this trick will not serve you in modern versions of the program but in the old ones and you will not have to install anything and it will only take a few seconds.
Applications and Programs
There are also applications and programs to break the passwords of Office documents although they generally work without any problem for versions prior to Word 2010 and it is much more complex to do it if you have modern software … We leave you three options that you can download for free if you have problems with the password of a file and you want to open it to see what it contains.
Free Word and Excel Password Recovery Wizard
Free Word and Excel Password Recovery Wizard is an application capable of decrypting any old document you have, from versions of Office 95 to versions of Office 2003, in case you have found a hard disk full of old jewels that you want to read but do not remember the password. It is a free application that you can download to your computer and that will work with Word, Excel or Power-Point documents using brute force or dictionary attack. It is very easy to use and installs quickly , so it will hardly take time to try and you will not lose anything.
Another simple (and obsolete) option is CrackIt! It is more basic than the previous one, it has no complications and does not require installation because it is a portable software that you will only have to download. Like the previous one, it will only work with documents from older versions of Word and it only takes a few seconds to recover the password for Microsoft Word 97, 2000 or 2003 documents.
Word Password Recovery Master
Finally, you can try Word Password Recovery Master. This software will only help you if the document you want to decrypt was created with a version of Word 2003 or earlier, just like the other two on this list. You can delete the password to read the file and it is very easy to use. One of the advantages of this program is that it will only take a few seconds to remove the encryption of a Word file and is compatible with all versions of Windows (including Windows 10) so you will have no problem installing it.