My Lockbox and Kruptos Offer Free File Protection - Page 2

By Joseph Moran
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Compared to the basic file protection provided by My Lockbox, Kruptos 2 offers a more mobile and much higher-horsepower way to safeguard sensitive data. Kruptos 2 does actual encryption of files and folders (via 256-bit Blowfish), and it throws in a file shredding feature for good measure. Yet despite the program's arsenal of advanced capabilities, it still manages to do well in the area of ease-of-use.

Kruptos 2 is freeware, but donations are accepted. Kruptos is compatible with Windows 2000 and XP (it may also work with Vista, but the developer points out that it hasn't been fully tested on that OS). We tested Kruptos on a system running XP Professional.

After a relatively simple install (Microsoft's .NET framework is required), Kruptos 2 is ready to use. The utility's interface is very clean, with a well-designed menu and large, easy-to-decipher function buttons. But perhaps what really makes Kruptos 2 easiest to use is the fact that virtually all program features are close at hand even when the application window isn't, thanks to integration with Windows Explorer.

To encrypt a file or folder with Kruptos, you need only right click it wherever it happens to be and select Encrypt File from the Kruptos context menu. From there, you enter and confirm a password (and a hint if you want) and then click Encrypt. (From start to finish, a total of four mouse clicks are required.)

Because the length and complexity of your chosen password directly impacts the strength of the encryption key, Kruptos 2 rates it as you type, from Very Weak through Weak, Strong, and finally, Very Strong. This assistance is easy to miss, however, as it comes in the form of barely noticeable text — a more conspicuous method like color coding or a strength bar would help encourage the selection of strong passwords.

Upon encryption, the source file or folder is replaced in its original location with the new encrypted version bearing an .ENC extension, and a scrambled file name as well. (When you encrypt an entire folder, each individual file is encrypted separately while the original folder and its name remain intact.) Encrypted files and folder are easily decrypted using the same right-click context menu, which also allows you to view the password hint or the original file name (upon providing the password, of course). Files can also be decrypted by double-clicking, which provides two added convenience options — the ability to automatically open the decrypted file as well as the ability to automatically re-encrypt the file when you close it.

The standard Kruptos 2 encryption process doesn't allow for easy portability of data since it requires the program in order to decrypt files. Thankfully, however, Kruptos also offers the option (also from the context menu) to create self-extracting files which can be transferred to and decrypted on any computer. The process is almost identical to the standard encryption except that the original file isn't automatically destroyed unless you check a box specifying it.

We had no problems opening self-extracting Kruptos 2 files on foreign computers, but we did have several complaints. First, since Exit is the default option in the decrypt dialog, you must actually click Extract after entering your password — simply hitting Enter will close the window without decrypting the file (which took us a while to catch on to).

Also, although you can specify a password hint when creating a self-extracting file, we could find no way to look up that hint from the self-extracting file. Finally, once decrypted, there's no way to re-encrypt a file if you don't have Kruptos installed.

Kruptos provides enough configuration options to be useful without being overwhelming. If desired, you can turn off confirmation dialogs to streamline the encryption and decryption process and disable the obfuscation of filenames. For speedier performance with large (or large numbers of) files, you can opt for 128-bit rather than 256-bit encryption.

As mentioned earlier, Kruptos also includes a file shredder function to irretrievably wipe data from your hard drive; the developer claims compliance with the DOD 5220.22-M standard, and you can set it from a scale of 1 (the default and fastest) to 16 (the most secure).

Overall, anyone in need of a powerful, flexible, and simple, not to mention technically free — though you should donate something — way to protect data both at home and on the road would do well to check out Kruptos 2.

Pros: Excellent integration with Explorer; powerful 256-bit file encryption; very clean interface with a well-designed menu and large, easy-to-decipher function buttons; portability via self-decryption option

Cons: Mostly easy to use, but some perplexing quirks, such as Exit being default option in decrypt dialog and password hint option but no discernible way to retrieve it for the self-extracting files

Adapted from winplanet.com.

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This article was originally published on April 21, 2008
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