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The Top 10 Tips for Securing Your Data

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With the use of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and netbooks, most of us do everyday tasks online, such as purchasing goods and banking. However, if we don’t secure our personal data on our computers and online, we could be asking for serious trouble.

The following 10 articles are the top methods we’ve covered for securing files and personal information both online and off, securing your Wi-Fi network, protecting website login information and passwords and other offline data.

Image by xkcd, obviously.


Encrypt a Hard Drive or USB Flash Drive Using TrueCrypt

One of the best options for securing files on your computer and on external drives is a free open source disk encryption utility called TrueCrypt. It works with Windows, Linux, and Mac and allows you to encrypt an entire drive, partition, or flash drive or create an encrypted file store in which you can store sensitive data files and take them with you. The following articles show you how to use TrueCrypt in Windows and on the Mac and how to protect a flash drive using TrueCrypt.

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Getting Started with TrueCrypt (to Secure Your Data)

Getting Started with TrueCrypt Drive Encryption on Mac OS X

How to Protect Your Flash Drive Data with TrueCrypt

Image via LadiesGadgets


Securely Store Data on the Go

If you need to store files securely and take them with you, TrueCrypt allows you to do this with encrypted volumes. However, you must have administrator access on whatever computer you use to access your TrueCrypt encrypted volume. The following article describes another option, called FreeOTFE, that allows you to store files in an encrypted volume that can be accessed using a portable version of the program that can be used without administrative privileges.

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Store Private Files Securely Using a Portable File Encryption Tool


Encrypt Personal Information in a Simple Executable Text File

Steganos LockNote is a small, simple method for securely storing chunks of information in files. For example, if you purchase a download-only program, you can use LockNote to store the product key or serial number that goes with that program in the same folder, so you always know where to find it. The following article shows you how simple it is to use LockNote to easily and securely store bits of information and take it with you.

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Encrypt Your Personal Information with Steganos LockNote


Hide Personal Information Inside an Image File

Another method of securing data is to hide it inside an image file. The following article shows you how to use a free tool, called Free File Camouflage, to hide a file inside an image file protected with a password. The image file is still an image file. The only thing that changes is the size of the file.

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How to Encrypt and Hide Your Personal Files Inside of a Photo


Secure Your Linux PC

If you’re using Ubuntu Linux on your PC, you can encrypt your Ubuntu installation partition to protect your data from hackers, nosy friends and family, or other intruders. The following article shows you how to encrypt a partition into which you can install Ubuntu, how to encrypt a folder, and how to create a hidden volume using TrueCrypt.

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How to Secure Your Linux PC by Encrypting Your Hard Drive


Securely Sync Your Files Using Dropbox and SecretSync

Have you wanted to use cloud storage, but have been hesitant to because of the security risks? Dropbox is a leading option for cloud storage. It’s simple to use and affordably priced. However, Dropbox users do not have access to the encryption keys for their accounts. Dropbox can decrypt your information and, for example, hand the files over to the government, if asked. You can manually encrypt your files using TrueCrypt before uploading them to Dropbox, but SecretSync provides an automated process. SecretSync locally encrypts your files before they are synced to your Dropbox account. The following article shows you how to set up Dropbox and SecretSync.

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Sync Encrypted Files with Dropbox and SecretSync


Securely Delete Your Data

Part of keeping your data secure is making sure deleted data is permanently gone. You might think that once you delete a file it’s gone. However, deleting a file only removes the reference to the file in the file system table. The file still exists on disk and can potentially be recovered. To permanently delete a file, you must overwrite it with other data, making it unreadable. The following article describes several tools available out there that provide methods of securely deleting files. Some of the tools are portable, allowing you to stay safe when using files on public computers.

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Learn How to Securely Delete Files in Windows


Securing Your Wi-Fi Network

Securing your Wi-Fi network is an important part of keeping your data secure. If your network is not secure, people can access your network and get to the files on your computer, as well as hijack your internet connection and possibly use it to do illegal things. The following articles show you how to secure your home Wi-Fi network against intrusion and also how to configure your router to support a secure, encrypted tunnel between your laptop and your home router so you can safely surf the internet from public Wi-Fi spots.

How To Secure Your Wi-Fi Network Against Intrusion

Setup SSH on Your Router for Secure Web Access from Anywhere


Protecting Login Information Using LastPass

Most of us have many user names and passwords for the various sites we regularly log into. How do you remember all of them? LastPass is a great option for securely storing your login information for websites, as well as other personal information. You can also use LastPass to enter your login information on websites automatically. The following articles show you how to use LastPass to store and use your private information, how to download and view information stored in your LastPass account offline, and how to install LastPass into the Opera browser.

The How-To Geek Guide to Getting Started with LastPass

Keep Those Hard to Remember Card Numbers Available and Secure with LastPass

Use a Free, Portable Tool to View your Passwords from Your LastPass Account Offline

Install the LastPass Extension in Opera Browser


Protecting Passwords and Other Data Offline Using KeePass

Storing private data in LastPass is useful, especially for logging into websites automatically and securely. However, if you want to be able to store many kinds of private information securely and take it with you offline, KeePass is a great option. It is portable and allows you to securely store different types of private information. The LastPass Portable tool mentioned in the previous tip, only allows you to view your information. If you change anything, the changes are lost once you exit LastPass Portable and you can’t upload any changes to your LastPass account. KeePass allows you to add, remove, and change your private information and keep it secure offline.

Securely Store Your Passwords with KeePass

How To Import Your Saved Browser Passwords Into KeePass

Install KeePass Password Safe on Your Ubuntu or Debian-Based Linux System


Now that we showed you how to keep your private data secure, here are some tips about creating secure passwords for your online accounts, home Wi-Fi network, and other places where a secure password is crucial.

Use WolframAlpha As a Secure Password Generator

10 Ways to Generate a Random Password from the Command Line

There are also password generation tools on the Gibson Research Corporation website (www.grc.com), run by Steve Gibson, security guru and privacy expert. His Perfect Passwords page generates long, high-quality random passwords using three different sets of characters. Passwords generated on this page are completely unique and will never be produced again. If you need a one-time password, Steve’s Perfect Paper Passwords page provides a free, simple, safe, and secure method of generating a convenient card of passcodes each of which is meant to be used one time only.

Steve also publishes a podcast called Security Now with Leo Laporte from TWiT TV (www.twit.tv). Archives of all the Security Now podcasts, back to the first one in August 2005, can be found at http://www.grc.com/securitynow.htm.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 03/10/12

Comments (14)

  1. r

    …and then you have to securely encrypt all the passwords that you create & use in order to
    secure most of these security programs….*!?*

  2. Steve-O-Rama

    Nah, just write ‘em down on a piece of paper, stick it in your wallet. (:’3

  3. westie

    Worst case scenario.. you die.. who can accesss your data anymore? Surely you want your family to be able to see your data? Surely the data you secure is important to your inheritance? Who was ultimately holds your passwords k

  4. BMills

    Two excellent alternatives to LockNote:

    Crypditor (http://www.protectcom.de/crypditor/de/)

    fSekrit (http://f0dder.dcmembers.com/fsekrit.index.php)

    Crypditor allows tabs, and changing the font type and size; fSekrit is similar to Windows Notepad (with the addition of encryption, of course)

  5. JohnWhite1974

    wow, great info. i’ll look into locknote. thanks a lot.

  6. Norman Pollack

    I use a program called RoboForm for my website password logins (auto connects and super protected/encrypted) — I have used it for many years and love the interface — I also use USB-Secure to protect all my USB drives and “Folder Lock” to PW protect file folders.

  7. TheFu

    TNO – trust no one.

    Definitely use Truecrypt for sensitive data – do not tell anyone that you do.

    Definitely make the decryption key for anything encrypted huge – something you never want to type. I use KeePassX – it is extremely cross-platform – to store all your password and even important documents. Attachments are encrypted too. I couldn’t tell you the logins for any but 3 of my systems. The others – probably hundreds – are 35-100 character passwords stored in a password manager DB.

    Now you just need to memorize 3 good, strong, passphrases. Home computer, work domain and KeePassX db. Guess which of these is the strongest?

    If my head is beaten to the point that I can’t recall the current KeePassX passphrase, I won’t have access to pretty much any accounts without convincing the organization that I really am me. Those password reset questions … well, I never tell the trust in them, so I’d need to look up the answer inside KeePass for those too.

    Ok, so in theory, I want to trust no one, but obviously, I’m trusting the OSes and KeePass programmers and each of the companies that has a password.

    That KeePass DB is automatically replicated to multiple systems and locations daily.

    As to accessing proprietary data when I’m remote … well, I think that not having that data with me is best. I setup remote access back to my “secure, secret lair” over an IPSec tunnel. Traveling overseas with proprietary data isn’t very smart. Leave the data at home and remote back as necessary, only over strongly encrypted channels from computers that you control.

  8. Konstantinos

    I’m definitely going to try Steganos LockNote, as I’m already using TED Notepad (which is the default notepad for me) for the same reasons with that, but w/out the encryption. Also, the pic at ‘Securely Delete Your Data’, reminded me a list giving the best (5 actually) methods to completely destroy the data from a HDD.

  9. Balconybar

    Paranoid, anyone?

  10. A

    I wonder why Bit locker is never mentioned. It’s built right into windows.

  11. JD Rosen

    Anyone know why Internet Explorer 9 would drop down to “text only” display after the first search? All the graphics disappear and I see only “links”. I do not use it that often, but as it is, it’s worthless. BTW, Chrome is worthless too for other reasons.

  12. kenedy123

    thanks giving the Top 10 Tips for Securing the Data.

  13. Paul

    @westie
    Actually, just the opposite. If I encrypt anything it’s so that others will not see it, and that especially includes family and friends after I am gone!

    Anything that I want seen, is already out there for the seeing.

  14. robert

    Good to know about the The Top 10 Tips for Securing The Data

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