Sunday, April 01, 2012

Neat Portable File Encryption Program via the USAF!

The other day I needed to transfer a file securely though the emails but didn’t want to deal with setting up a certificate-based method such as Comodo’s Secure Email or an OpenPGP email solution like Enigmail. I wanted to be able to keep this file in my web-based email account for access but didn’t want to leave it in the “free-n-clear” in case my account ever got hacked. Sure, I could have made an encrypted file volume in TrueCrypt and copied it up, but that seemed like overkill.

I just wanted to encrypt the file and decrypt it as needed without a lot of drama as needed when I found myself on a guest system.

I found a big selection of freeware tools to do this and while they all were quite full-featured, they all seemed to be a bit more expansive then the simple task I was looking for. Those that I explored included:

Almost any of these almost fit the need I had, but I just didn’t feel the match was perfect. Plus I wasn’t really looking for something I might have to install on a guest system…especially if it might not be running Windows.

Finally I found exactly what I was looking for courtesy of the US Air Force Research Laboratory geeks.

Software Protection Initiative - Encryption Wizard Public. From the page.

Encryption Wizard (EW) is a simple, strong, Java file and folder encryptor for protection of sensitive information (FOUO, Privacy Act, CUI, etc.). EW encrypts all file types for data-at-rest and data-in-transit protection. Without installation or elevated privileges, EW runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris, and other computers with Sun Java. Behind its simple drag-n-drop interface, EW offers 128-bit AES encryption, SHA-256 hashing, searchable metadata, archives, compression, secure deleting, and PKI/CAC/PIV support. EW is GOTS - Government invented, owned, and supported software. Over 35,100 copies of EW protect a wide variety of data.

EW comes in two, fully-compatible and interoperable editions, EW-Public and EW-Govt. Anyone can download and use EW-Public. Designed for US Federal Government (and contractor) computers, EW-Govt is accredited by the Army and Air Force for NIPRNet and SIPRNet. EW is free to users.

It was a piece of cake to use.

I downloaded the latest version (EW-Public) v3.3.1

I unzipped the archive (included 2.09 MB PDF user guide, 1.21 MB “jar” application, and 2kB text file for getting started).

I ran the EW-Public-3.3.1 “jar” file and got a cool splash logo followed by the application.

I selected the file I needed to encrypt and drag/dropped in on the application window.

I hit the “Encrypt” button and provided/confirmed a “passphrase.” (note it will provide you feedback on the strength as you go.)

Hit the “next” button and decided if I wanted to keep the original file after encryption or delete it. Your choice. Added it. Done.

Note, it does not randomize or otherwise change the file name itself, so you may want to do so if the file name makes it more interesting to snooping eyes.

To decrypt, launch the app, drag the encrypted file onto the application,choose the “Decrypt” button, pass your passphrase and you are good.

It is a breeze to use, is 100% portable, and is very fast. If you are afraid the system you are working on doesn’t have Java for some bizarre reason, keep a copy of jPortable along side this jar file application.

If you want to encrypt many files at once, drag them all and then encrypt and it will create a “many-in-one” compressed/encrypted file. Sweet!

The PDF User Guide v3.3.x is very detailed and well worth reading if you are interesting in using this tool.

Yes, I know using a US military/govt developed tool for encryption may not appeal to the tinfoil-hat wearing crowd, but on the other hand if you need a fast, easy to use file-encryption tool, this is a great choice. It’s good enough for me and has my full confidence.

Bonus Find:

Software Protection Initiative - Lightweight Portable Security - The same team that developed the encryption tool above also has a public version of a secure ISO-based live-CD linux build that also includes Encryption Wizard - Public. Download the ISO and you burn it to a CD (or create a bootable USB drive from the included “install to USB” tool in Windows on the root of the ISO/CD) and use this distro to securely run on a system.  It’s light-weight and no frills. There is also a “deluxe” version that includes OpenOffice and AdobeReader which are stripped out of the “lite” version.

It’s a nice lite little distro for special needs usage and was an unexpectedly pleasant find.


--Claus V.

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