Data Doctor: Easy ways to protect your files - East Valley Tribune: Business

Data Doctor: Easy ways to protect your files

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Posted: Monday, February 12, 2007 2:53 am | Updated: 7:10 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Q. How do you password protect CDs and DVDs? - Jim

A. Without knowing more about what exactly you are trying to protect and who you are trying to protect the files from, I’ll see if I can address the various solutions you may be seeking.

If you are trying to protect a specific file from being opened by unauthorized users, most productivity programs (Word, Excel, etc.) have the ability to set a password for opening and/or editing a file.

In Word and Excel, click on Tools, then on Options then on the “Security” tab to see the various password options. Once you set the password and transfer it to a CD or DVD, the user must have the password to open the individual files.

If you want to see if the file password option is available in any application that you are running, click on the Help menu within the program and search the index for “password.”

This type of “file level” password is pretty simple to use and moderately easy for someone to break if they are sufficiently motivated, so if you are trying to protect very sensitive information, this may not be your best choice.

If you have a large number of files that you are trying to protect, you can use a compression utility to create what is commonly referred to as a zip file, which will combine all of the files into one and encrypt the file to protect the entire “package.”

Two of the most popular programs are SecureZip (formerly known as PKZIP – free download at www.securezip.com) and WinZip (trial download at www.winzip.com).

If you use either of these utilities to create an encrypted zip file, then burn “the package” to a CD or DVD, the user will have to have the ability to “unzip” the package using the same utility (and your password).

If you want to make sure that only your computer can view data that is burned to a CD or DVD and you are running Windows XP Professional, you can encrypt the files using the Encrypting File System (right-click on any file, then on Properties to access the Advanced options in the General tab). This prevents any other computer from ever being able to read the files, because the “key” is only on your computer.

If you are running Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP and want to use file level encryption but make it usable by more than just your own computer, you can download a trial version of CryptoForge at www. cryptoforge.com.

This utility provides four encryption algorithms including “Blowfish,” which is considered one of the most powerful (448-bit key for you techies).

If you use this program, anyone who needs to gain access to the CD or DVD will need this program installed on their computer as well. The ability to encrypt the files after the 30-day trial period requires that you buy the program ($30), but the decryption portion of the trial download will work forever so your recipients won’t need to buy it.

A word of warning: the stronger your encryption program, the more difficult it is to break, so make sure you don’t forget the password(s) you use in the process.

We see folks at our data recovery labs all the time who have locked themselves out of their own data. So don’t be careless with these utilities.

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