Want to increase the security of your online accounts and sensitive data? Here are a couple of free applications that I have found useful.
- KeePass (http://www.keepass.info): Are you overwhelmed with passwords? Do you find yourself either constantly forgetting passwords or keeping them in an unreliable or unsecure location like a folded up piece of paper in your desk drawer or a Word document on your computer. KeePass is a free application that allows users to easily store and access passwords. Some of my favorite KeePass features are:
- Consolidate All Passwords in One Place: As long as you use KeePass consistently, always entering new passwords, then you will always know where all of your passwords are. And you will only need to remember one password: the password you use to open your KeePass file.
- Ability to Randomly Generate Passwords: Many people reuse the same username and password over and over again across various accounts. If one account is compromised then the security of all of the accounts that use the same username and password could be degraded. KeePass can automatically generate suggested random passwords for individual accounts. This will increase your security by (1) creating password diversity among various accounts and (2) making your passwords extremely difficult to guess.
- Automatic Username and Password Submission: Once you have entered your account information into KeePass, the software will automatically fill in correct information when you want to log into your online accounts via a web browsers. You only need to open your KeePass file once when you boot up your computer. Normally it would be very cumbersome to use complicated random passwords for accounts. However, this feature of KeePass eliminates much of the trouble of typing in complicated passwords, which might encourage you to use more complicated and secure passwords.
- TrueCrypt (http://www.truecrypt.org): Do you have sensitive information stored somewhere? It could be on your desktop, laptop, USB drive or somewhere else. Have you thought about how you might feel if you misplaced that USB drive that had your tax returns on it? TrueCrypt makes it easy to encrypt your sensitive data using AES encryption algorithms so your data will be safe from prying eyes.
TrueCrypt will allow you to encrypt a single file, an entire partition or an entire drive. For example, you can configure TrueCrypt to encrypt the entire contents of a USB drive. TrueCrypt works by creating volumes, which can be a single file or entire partition. A password is required to decrypt and gain access to the contents of each volume. When you want to mount (open) a volume you enter the password and all of its contents become freely available. You access the volume just like any other folder or partition on your computer, freely opening, moving, creating, modifying and deleting files. When you dismount (close) the volume, all of its contents are sealed inside and encrypted.
You will need the TrueCrypt software to open any files encrypted using it. Thus, if you use it on portable drives you might want to leave some portion of the drive unencrypted so that you can keep a copy of the program on the drive and ready for use should you find yourself needing your data on a friend’s computer.