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Free Encryption / Cryptographic Software, Free On the Fly Encryption, Free Disk Encryption Tools, Steganography, Free Public Key Encryption Software

This page lists free encryption / cryptographic software of a wide variety. There are free on-the-fly disk encryption / on the fly file encryption (OTFE) software that transparently encrypts files on your disk drive (or partition), on demand encryption tools that allow you to encrypt single files for those one-off occasions when you need encryption public key encryption which is particularly useful for things like email (where the key you use to encrypt your data is different from the key used to decrypt the data), etc. Included here are also software that can perform steganography, a sort of invisible encryption, where the plaintext version of your sensitive data is encrypted and hidden inside another file (typically images or sound or video files).

Caution: Be careful when you use cryptographic / encryption software that do not tell you which algorithm they use. Claims like "strong encryption" and "secure encryption" do not tell you very much - after all, anyone can simply convert the letters on (say) this page to numbers (where a=1, b=2, etc) and still claim it is strong encryption / cryptography. Of course I doubt any program uses such kindergarten tricks. Nonetheless, words like "proprietary encryption" should set you on your guard, and words like "unbreakable encryption" should make you very suspicious. In general, the publicly available encryption algorithms like Rjindael AES tend to be better tested with the weaknesses and strengths known than some obscure proprietary algorithm that might well turn out to be a snake oil product. Note that this is not a comment on the quality of any of the products listed here - it's just a generally well-known cautionary note commonly offered by security experts of which I am not one.

Furthermore, if you need to ensure the privacy or security of your data, you might also be interested in the Free Destructive Deletion Tools, Disk and File Wipe Utilities, Secure Deletion Software page.

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Disclaimer

The information provided on this page comes without any warranty whatsoever. Use it at your own risk. Just because a program, book or service is listed here or has a good review does not mean that I endorse or approve of the program or of any of its contents. All the other standard disclaimers also apply.

Free On the Fly Disk / File Encryption (OTFE)

FreeOTFE

FreeOTFE is an open source OTFE (on the fly disk encryption) software for Windows. It presumably creates encrypted partitions (the documentation does not explicitly state this, nor does it state if it supports the creation of encrypted container files). You mount the encrypted volume under Windows and it appears as a drive which you can use normally. FreeOTFE supports "hidden volumes" which are encrypted volumes that are created inside another encrypted volume. All FreeOTFE volumes also have no identifiable signature. It is compatible with Linux losetup, which is useful if you need to use your encrypted volumes in both Linux and Windows. Supported ciphers include AES and Twofish, and supported hash algorithms include MD2, MD4, MD5, RIPEMD-128, RIPEMD-160, SHA-1, SHA-224, SHA-256, SHA-384, SHA-512. At the time I write this review, FreeOTFE is still in BETA testing.

TrueCrypt

TrueCrypt is the successor to E4M (which is no longer maintained). You can use it to encrypt an entire partition of your hard disk or to create an encrypted container file which appears like a normal hard disk to Windows. You can then store and access your files on that virtual drive just like any other file. Since the program does not mark the encrypted container (or partition) in any way, there's no way to for any intruder to guess which file is your encrypted container. This, according to the author, also preserves plausible deniability. Encryption algorithms supported include AES, Blowfish, CAST, IDEA (removed in version 2.1a) and Triple-DES. The source code is available free. This program only works under Windows XP, 2000 and 2003.

Cryptainer LE

Cryptainer LE allows you to create 25 MB encrypted containers that appear to Windows as disk drives. It supports Windows 95 (OSR 2), 98, ME, 2000, XP and 2003. It uses the Blowfish algorithm. It apparently also allows you to send encrypted emails as well.

CryptoExpert 2004 Lite

CryptoExpert Lite is a free on the fly encryption program that creates a virtual disk on your disk from a container file. It supports the CAST encryption algorithm.

CompuSec

This encryption software will encrypt your entire hard disk (including your operating system) using a "fast AES algorithm". It also supports the encryption of floppy disks, memory sticks and other removable devices. Even your Windows hibernation file is stored encrypted on the disk.

E4M Disk Encryption

Working with documents on your computer where you don't want prying eyes to see? You can get free software that sets up a drive on your hard disk where all files saved will be encrypted. The drive need not be an actual hard disk or partition, it can be a file that is set up to look like a drive to Windows for transparent operation. It is easy to use, free, freely redistributable with the full source code available. It works on all Windows systems. Supported encryption include DES, IDEA, Triple-DES, Blowfish, and CAST. If you find yourself continually encrypting individual files on your computer, this might prove to be the easier o use solution. Note: E4M is no longer being maintained. The link above leads to a third party site.

Scramdisk Encryption

Scramdisk allows you to create an encrypted virtual drive on your Windows systems where you can store files which will be automatically encrypted. The drive acts like a normal drive which you can access just like any other disk drive on your system. Supported encryption algorithms include Triple DES (EDE), Blowfish, DES, IDEA, MISTY1, Square, and TEA (both 16 and 32 rounds). This software is no longer supported.

Free Public Key Encryption Software

Windows Privacy Tools (WinPT)

Windows Privacy Tools (including the Windows Privacy Tray, ie WinPT Tray, and the WinPT Explorer Extensions), is a set of tools that allow you to encrypt your data using GnuPG (see elsewhere on this page). It is a frontend to GnuPG that resides in your system tray that may be used as a universal plug-in to any email software. The software is free.

PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) Public Key Encryption

The above link is to the International PGP Home Page, where you can get free binaries and sources for Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) for a variety of operating systems for either US or non-US countries. You can use PGP to encrypt your email in conjunction with your email client, be it Eudora, ELM, PINE, or whatever. PGP is a public key encryption system, which means that you have two keys (passwords), one which is known only to you and the other is known to your recipient. Messages or documents (or whatever) encoded with one key can only be decoded with the other. You can read more about this from the PGP FAQs at the site.

GPG: GNU Privacy Guard

GPG, a.k.a. GnuPG, is the GNU version of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), a public key encryption system. Like all things GNU, it is free and can be freely distributed and modified. It is generally compatible with the newer PGP versions (depending on the encryption algorithms you choose); but you should read their FAQ for more details.

Free Encryption Software with Steganography

S-Tools

S-Tools is an encryption software with steganographic capabilities. It hides files in BMP, GIF and WAV files after compressing and encrypting them. It runs on Windows and supports drag and drop. It uses the facilities provided in a freely available encryption library cryptlib (which supports a host of well known encryption algorithms like AES, Blowfish, etc) to perform its encryption.

4t HIT Mail Privacy Lite

This encryption software allows you to hide your private data such as email messages inside an image (JPG, GIF, TIFF, BMP, etc). The image is still viewable as an image, but it also contains the encrypted version of your secret message (steganography). The website does not specify which encryption algorithm is used.

Camouflage

This encryption software performs steganographic functions as well. It encrypts your file using an unspecified algorithm (in fact the website merely says it scrambles your data) and attaches them in another file of your choice, such as sound files, picture files, etc. I suspect that this software is only for the casual user (who merely wants to hide files from a prying brother or sister) and not for anyone who really needs strong encryption (such as governmental agencies, banks, companies, and the like).

Other Free Encryption Software, Free Disk Encryption Tools

LockNote New

LockNote encrypts your documents using AES 256. Your encrypted document will have an embedded decryption program that will run when you (or your recipient, if you are sending your document to someone else) double-click it in Windows NT/2000/XP. You can then enter the password to decrypt the document. The program is released under the GNU GPL.

BCArchive

BCArchive is an encrypting, compressing archiver. It can compress a file, a group of files, or folders (subdirectories), and place the result into an encrypted archive. It uses algorithms like IDEA and Blowfish to encrypt the data, and PKCS #5 for deriving the encrypted key from the password string. It is also able to create a self-extracting archive, so that the recipient of your archive (if you're sending it to someone) need not have to install BCArchive to access your files. You can also use public/secret key pairs with this program. BCArchive supports the following symmetric algorithms: Blowfish, IDEA, Triple-DES and CAST5. It supports the following asymmetric algorithms: RSA and ElGammal/Diffie-Hellman. Secure hash algorithms supported include SHA-256, SHA-1, MD5, RIPEMD-160.

AxCrypt

AxCrypt allows you to encrypt your files with the AES encryption algorithm (128-bit key). It supports the use of key files, huge files (more than 4 GB), shredding of temporary and plaintext files, an extensive command line interface as well as a right click interface from Windows Explorer, etc. The program is open source, distributed under the GNU General Public License.

FineCrypt

FineCrypt allows you to encrypt a limited number of folders and files (although it will not encrypt archives like ZIP, ARC, CAB, ARJ, TAR and GZ files). Encryption algorithms supported include MARS, RC-6, Rjindael (AES), Serpent, Twofish, and others. You can encrypt select your encryption mode as well, from ECB, CBC, CFB and OFB. The software also allows you to create encrypted self-extracting executables.

File Buddy

File Buddy encrypts and decrypts your files as well as securely wipes your original plaintext versions. It works on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT4, 2000. It is also able to compress your files before encrypting. The website does not specify the encryption algorithm used.

Crypto-Lock

Crypto-Lock uses SHA-1 and Blowfish (CBC mode) to encrypt your files (including executable files) after compressing it. It can produce self-decrypting modules, and overwrite the original plaintext version.

PowerCrypt 2000

PowerCrypt uses a proprietary symmetric encryption algorithm to encrypt your data. It is a Windows program.

CCrypt

CCrypt is a command line encryption tool that encrypts the files you specify. It is multiplatform with ports for Windows, Linux, Sun Solaris, Macintosh OS X, FreeBSD, AIX, etc. It uses the Rjindael AES cipher (Advanced Encryption Standard). The source code is available.

MCrypt

mcrypt is a command line tool in the fashion of the Unix crypt command. It allows you to encrypt files that you specify on the command line using one of the following encryption algorithms: Blowfish, Twofish, DES, TripleDES, 3-Way, Safer, Loki97, Gost, RC2, Mars, Rjindael AES, Serpent, Cast, Arcfour and Wake. The OpenPGP encrypted file format is supported. This encryption tools works on Unix systems (including Linux) and has also been ported to Windows.

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