Encrypting your files may seem like overkill for a 3d artist or game developer, but if you’re going to store sensitive information on the cloud or anywhere else, that’s not where it should be if you are producing sensitive material for a client. Instead, you want to make sure nobody has access to it without your or their permission.
In the unlikely event, someone were to gain physical access to your computer and try to decrypt your files, they’d have no way of knowing what was in them, the same at the Client end if you are considering extreme security for files. I mention this case scenario as – for a lot of us working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic – we are having to work with highly business sensitive material. For 3d artists and game developers in particular where our projects can be huge and highly expensive.
The problem with using encryption software is that it doesn’t really protect you from people who are determined enough to break into your system—it just makes their job easier. It also requires more technical know-how than most people have, which means there aren’t many people out there willing to do this kind of work for free. You could always pay for professional help, but then again you might as well use a paid service that will probably still leave some of your data exposed.
If you’re looking to encrypt files locally, however, there’s nothing stopping you from doing so. There are plenty of tools available online that let you do it yourself or at least get the job done faster. Here we’ll look at three popular options and how to set up each one for maximum protection.
TrueCrypt is by far the most popular free encryption system out there right now and it’s available across multiple operating systems, so if you’ve got a few flash drives laying around you can use those as extra storage once everything is set up. All you need to do is download the installer for your OS and run it. Everything else is self-explanatory.
When you first start TrueCrypt it’ll ask you to create a container. This is your encrypted folder that you can store things in. You can format it like any other drive and add files to it as you see fit. You just won’t be able to access them without mounting the TrueCrypt drive first. If you want to password protect it, use the “Create a password” option. Otherwise the system will prompt you for your password when you attempt mount it.
To mount your drive, go to “Device” on the left sidebar and click on “Mount Folder.” You’ll then be able to browse to the drive and enter your password when prompted.
While it’s convenient that you can use flash drives with TrueCrypt, this software also supports a variety of other methods for mounting drives. If you prefer to store your encrypted files on your hard drive instead, you can set that up in the settings.
While TrueCrypt is one of the more popular encryption suites out there, it isn’t without its fair share of security concerns. A few years ago, for instance, experts at the University of Pennsylvania managed to prove that it had a serious vulnerability in its random number generator. While that doesn’t make the system inherently insecure, it does mean TrueCrypt isn’t perfect. For many people, though, perfect is good enough and it’s a solid free option.
If you don’t want to use TrueCrypt for whatever reason, EncFS is another free and open source option. As the name suggests, it’s built on the Linux filesystem of the same name. So if you’re more comfortable with that syntax than TrueCrypt’s, this might be a better choice for you.
Setting up EncFS is easy. First download the software for your operating system and install it. Once you’ve done that, run the program and it should detect any drives you have plugged in, which in most cases will be your flash drive. It’ll give each a name like “external” and under that it’ll say “Encrypted Volume.” Open that folder to get to your encrypted files.
Unfortunately, setting up new drives is a bit more complex than with TrueCrypt. If you want to create an encrypted volume from within Windows you can use the third-party tool EncFS Manager. Just download, install and run it as administrator. Then follow the instructions to mount your EncFS drive.
One of the more well-known encryption tools, Microsoft’s BitLocker was first introduced in 2007 with the release of Windows Vista. TrueCrypt may be open source and favored by privacy advocates, but if you’re more comfortable with Microsoft’s implementation you’ll have to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 as it isn’t included in older versions of the software.
It’s worth pointing out that while BitLocker itself is free, you will need to purchase a Windows Enterprise license in order to enable it on your computer. If that’s too much, though, you can still use the software to encrypt external drives.
In summary. Its a pain, however if you need good security, it’s worth looking into.