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Five free OS X data encryption utilities

Here are five ways to secure the data on your Mac using both built-in tools and third-party utilities. All of these are robust tools that can thwart both casual snoopers and hardcore hackers. And on top of that, they won't cost you a dime.
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Introduction

Running OS X and want to keep your data safe from prying eyes? Whether you're using your system for work or play, keeping your data secure is something that should concern everyone. Data is precious, and even small breaches of privacy can have disastrous consequences.

Here are five ways to secure the data on your Mac using both built-in tools and third-party utilities. All of these are robust tools that can thwart both casual snoopers and hardcore hackers.

And on top of that, they won't cost you a dime.

See also:

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FileVault

One of the easiest ways to encrypt all the data on your Mac is to use the built-in tool FileVault. It's simple to use and works in the background, yet it is powerful and offers a high level of security because everything on your disk of flash drive is secured – apps, data, and temp files.

To set up FileVault you have to be logged in as an administrator and then go System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault to begin the process. This will take some time, so don't start doing it when you're just heading out of the door or plan on needing your Mac soon. Leave it for an evening or weekend.

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Disk Utility

Another way to encrypt data using OS X is to use the Disk Utility application to create an encrypted image.

You can set this up as follows:

  • Fire up Disk Utility
  • Go File > New > Blank Disk Image
  • Give the image a name and select a size and location for the image
  • Choose between "sparse disk image" for an image that only uses as much space as it needs or "read/write disk image" for a regular image
  • Choose between 128-bit or 256-bit AES encryption (256-bit is more secure, but can be slower)
  • Click Create and then enter a strong password, which you can choose not to save to the keychain by deselecting Remember password (add to keychain)
  • Click OK
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VeraCrypt

VeraCrypt is a fork of the now defunct TrueCrypt security suite. VeraCrypt works on Windows, OS X, and Linux. It has support for AES, TwoFish, and Serpent encryption. Recent releases have added enhanced security to the algorithms used for system and partitions encryption making it immune to new developments in brute-force attacks.

VeraCrypt is 100 percent free, and the source code is available for audit by anyone who wants to validate the application or build on it.

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GPG Suite

I was going to recommend GnuPG, but unless you're willing to invest a lot of time climbing up a steep learning curve, having to memorize arcane command line incantations then that is just too much work. GPG Suite offers a far gentler, easier way to make powerful encryption work for you.

GPG Suite is 100 percent free and comes with the following:

  • GPG for Mail: A plugin for the Apple Mail app that allows you to encrypt, decrypt, sign and verify emails using OpenPGP
  • GPG Keychain: Manage your OpenPGP keys
  • GPG Services: Bring the power of GPG to other apps, allowing you to encrypt/decrypt, sign/verify and import keys from text selections, files, folders and much more
  • MacGPG: The engine behind it all, offering command line control foe those who want it

Source code is available for those who want to take a look at the code or build on the app.

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AES Crypt

If you want a simple yet secure way to encrypt files on-demand without having to encrypte your entire system, AES Crypt is the tool for you.

To use it you simply drag and drop the files into the application to securely encrypt and decrypt the files, which are protected using 256-bit AES.

Source code is available for those who want it.

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