Encryption software – The best encryption software in comparison

The most important facts in brief

  • Data and documents can be digitally encrypted with encryption software
  • This eliminates security vulnerabilities and protects privacy from hackers

1. What are the advantages of encryption software?

Private data on your personal computer’s drive is usually not as secure as consumers would wish. It’s not just through direct access to the computer that unauthorized users can browse files on the hard drive. Internet access allows hackers and intelligence services to gain access to files on the hard drive without the owner of the data noticing. Drives with sensitive data such as personal photos, videos, contracts and manuscripts should therefore only be accessible by entering passwords – the easiest way is to use encryption software. Encryption software makes stolen data useless unless the thief knows the correct password to decode the files.

2. How encryption software works

Encryption is the process by which a file containing various types of information is converted into an unreadable or difficult to read character string using an encryption method. Thanks to decryption methods, this secret code can also be converted back to plain text. The sense and purpose of encrypted content is the protection against unwanted access. There are two common methods currently used:

Symmetrical form of encryption

In symmetric encryption, also known as secret key encryption, the same key is used for both encryption and decryption of files. Since the performance of this type of encryption is considerably reduced, it is used, for example, when backing up large databases and drives. For private use, coding is usually done manually by entering the password.

Asymmetric form of encryption

In so-called asymmetric encryption, a coherent key pair consisting of a public and a private key is used. The public key is used for encryption, while the private key is used for decryption. This type of encryption is also known as public-key encryption and is particularly useful if the two processes are carried out by different people, since no information needs to be exchanged.

3. Finding the right software

Free encryption software quickly find browsing users on the Internet. However, the risk of running into programs containing malware is correspondingly high. The best-known free software for the encryption of hard disks and partitions is VeraCrypt, the successor of TrueCrypt. TrueCrypt was always considered insecure, because until the end nobody knew who was behind the project and TrueCrypt itself contained security holes in the last version.

More sophisticated encryption software usually costs money, but also offers more security and above all more functions. The most expensive encryption software is aimed more at companies and is dedicated to the complex protection of drives, servers and networks. As an alternative, Microsoft provides its operating systems with the hard disk encryption BitLocker. On the server side, BitLocker is included as of Windows Server 2008. For home users, BitLocker is included in the Ultimate and Enterprise versions of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems, as well as the Pro and Enterprise versions of Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

Even if companies – especially those that keep confidential information about customers – are the most popular target for data theft, administrators of their own websites should also ensure that their data is properly encrypted before their homepage becomes the victim of a hacker attack. Private users should also take the issue of data protection and encryption seriously and take appropriate protective measures, especially if the consumer occasionally works from home. The encryption software developed for domestic use is very easy to use. Once the software is installed, users can encrypt music, images, videos or text documents with a single click of the mouse. So that they can reuse the document in the sequence, users simply convert it back to its original form by entering a password.

What happens to the encrypted files?

The encoded data behaves like normal files and the owner can store them on the hard disk of his computer. Your outsourcing can increase security if, for example, you are on an external hard drive without Internet access. Another advantage is the storage space on a server, which means that the stored data can be retrieved from any location. Encrypted storage means that the user can be sure that unauthorized persons cannot access the data and spy on information.

The possibilities vary enormously depending on the encryption software. Encryption programs either support the storage of encrypted files on external hardware, such as USB sticks or portable hard disks, or online solutions are used. The latter are also known as cloud and offer customers online storage space for their data. Depending on the available accounts or preferences, either the well-known cloud hosters Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are available, some providers also have their own solutions or can integrate private and company servers.

4. How we compare

Netzsieger supports consumers in their search for the right encryption software. For better orientation, the evaluation of the encryption programs is based on four criteria:

Features

The evaluation criterion functions are concerned in particular with the useful scope of applications and tools for encryption that the software brings with it. Among other things, we pay attention to whether users with the encryption software have a choice between different encryption methods and the key length. With this modification, for example, less sensitive data can be encrypted to a lesser extent. However, they can be retrieved more quickly. Moreover, if the user is so flexible with the encryption program that he can use not only a text password, but also an image password or even an external device, such as his iPhone, as a key, this is rewarded accordingly in the evaluation of the encryption software.

Programs such as Steganos Safe, Folder Lock or ArchiCrypt Live also offer various options for hiding data or the safe folder. Only users will then know where these data containers are located. In this context, general safety functions are also interesting for the evaluation. Furthermore, this test section also deals with hacker or virus protection of the encryption programs. We therefore also examine applications for reliable data protection.

Performance

Is the program also compatible with Apple devices? How much load is placed on the system during encryption? Can the software also be used as a portable safe? We answer these and other questions in the Performance section and also list the system requirements of the encryption software. Even with optimal equipment of functions, an encryption software is only a useful instrument if the program runs flawlessly on the computer.

Handling

Many programs are available to users in German language, offer an intuitive user interface or the connection to a cloud. Some encryption programs can be installed on multiple computers, while other vendors only purchase a single license.

Help & Support

In addition to FAQs, help functions and forums, the highest rated providers also provide direct contact to the support team via e-mail, telephone or live chat support in the encryption software test. Other helpful services include step-by-step instructions or video tutorials to help you get started with the encryption program. Not every program offers every type of support; in addition, there are software manufacturers who unfortunately do not offer German language support.

Conclusion on encryption software

The selection of encryption software is growing every year. This does not make the decision easier, because there is no real program. Similar to an insurance policy, you can also take out insurance for security software. Not all functions are useful for every user, some of which greatly increase the price of encryption software. Users should decide individually on the basis of the product tests which of the features described above are required for each encryption software.