Disk Encryption For Mac

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Why Need to Encrypt Mac Files? All vital files stored inside a computer including Mac need to be. Full Disk Encryption. Provides centrally-managed, full disk encryption using Windows BitLocker and Mac FileVault, taking advantage of the technology built into the operating systems. Seamlessly manage keys and recovery functions from the SafeGuard Management Center. How to Encrypt a Folder on Mac Using Disk Utility. Disk Utility can create an encrypted file known as a disk image. It is similar to a zip file, but it utilizes the strongest Mac encryption method. For example, this option is how I would add an encrypted folder to my Mac to keep an archive of past financial records. Has been audited as secure. What We Don't Like.

July 13, 2020

If you’re looking for an easy way to carry or back up your digital data, a USB flash drive may offer you a cheap solution. Also known as thumb drives, flash drives are small, portable data storage devices that you can slip into your pocket.

Convenient? Yes. But what if the personal data stored on your flash drive is exposed? While this external portable device is compact and easy to carry, it’s also easy to lose or have stolen for those same reasons.

That’s where encryption comes in.

Why encrypt your flash drive?

Encryption

If you’re going to use a flash drive, encryption is one of the best ways to protect your data.

Encryption can help protect the sensitive data on an external drive should it fall into the wrong hands through loss or theft, but there are other reasons for encryption, too. For instance, non-encrypted flash drives can leave you vulnerable to malware and other device security threats.

But what does it really mean to encrypt your data and how does it work? Encryption means only those with an encryption key file or password will be able to access the data on an encrypted flash drive.

So even if your flash drive falls into the wrong hands, those unintended third parties won’t be able to access or understand the information the drive is holding and therefore would be unable to use it for nefarious purposes.

Encryption, flash drives, and filesystems

An important factor in the encryption process for your flash drive is your filesystem. Your filesystem organizes your drive by dictating how and how much data is stored, and what type of data can be attached to files.

Apple supports three file systems: Apple File System (APFS), Hierarchical File System (HFS) Plus, and extended File Allocation Table (exFAT). Windows also supports exFAT, along with NT File System (NTFS) and File Allocation Table (FAT32).

Different filesystem types will impact your encryption options in different ways. Here are the differences.

Apple File System (APFS)

The APFS is the default used in the newer Mac operating system, also known as macOS 10.13 High Sierra — and is optimized for flash drives.

Hierarchical File System (HFS) Plus

The HFS+ filesystem, also known as Mac OS Extended, is used by Apple to encrypt removable media on older versions of macOS.

NT File System (NTFS)

NTFS is the most modern file system that Windows uses by default for its system drive and non-removable drives. NTFS is the ideal filesystem for internal drives.

File Allocation Table (FAT32)

FAT32 is older and less efficient than NTFS. However, it is more compatible with other operating systems and can be used to support an external drive — if exFAT isn’t supported on your device and you don’t have files larger than 4 GB.

ExFAT

ExFAT is the modern replacement for FAT32 and is a great cross-platform option, supported by more devices and operating systems in its compatibility with both Windows and macOS. This file system is optimal for flash drives in its lightweight design like FAT32, but without that filesystem’s limitations or the extra features of NTFS. Similar to NTFS, exFAT gives you more storage than FAT32’s 4GB limit.

Encrypting a flash drive on a Mac computer

Encrypting your flash drive is different on a Mac because Apple uses the APFS or HFS+ filesystems to encrypt removable media, so you’ll need to format your drive accordingly. Here’s how.

Step 1: Erase drive (but consider consulting an expert first)

To format your external flash drive with the HFS+ filesystem, for example, start by opening the disk utility app. Then select your USB drive and choose Erase. Keep in mind that you could erase any data that’s already on the external or flash drive. You may want to consult a professional for advice.

Step 2: Format filesystem

After choosing the MacOS extended format and erasing the drive, format it with the HFS+ filesystem.

Step 3: Encrypt drive

To encrypt your drive, right-click your USB drive in your Finder and select Encrypt.

Step 4: Set password

Enter a strong password to keep others from gaining access.

Encrypting a flash drive on a Windows computer

Windows uses built-in encryption software known as BitLocker drive encryption, which is built into Windows Vista, including Pro, Ultimate, Enterprise, and Windows 10. While Bitlocker can encrypt your operating system drive and fixed data drives on your computer, Bitlocker to Go can encrypt your external USB flash drive and external hard drives. Windows also gives you a choice between three filesystems, as mentioned above.

Step 1: Choose filesystem

Disk Encryption Mac Slow

To start, choose which filesystem you want to use — NFTS, exFAT or FAT32 — by right-clicking your drive and choosing Format.

Step 2: Encrypt drive

To encrypt your flash or external drive, select the drive in your file explorer, hit your Manage tab, Select BitLocker, and turn BitLocker on.

Step 3: Set password

You’ll then choose how you want to unlock the drive — with a smart card, password, or both. If you choose to set a password, create a strong password and enter it twice.

Step 4: Save recovery key

You’ll then need to choose how you want to save your recovery key, in case you forget your password.

Encryption software options

Some flash drives offer built-in encryption, so you won’t have to use encryption software or a third-party app. If your drive doesn’t already provide encryption, you’ll need to decide which software is right for you.

Your decision will depend on factors that include your operating system, ease of use, level of encryption, safety features, speed, file size, and cost. Below is a listing of several encryption tools you may want to consider for your removable media.

Gilisoft USB encryption*

Gilisoft USB encryption software uses the AES-256 encryption algorithm, and runs automatically once your USB is detected. Other than choosing the size of your encrypted partition, everything else is automated. In various online reviews, possible drawbacks have includeed the cost, which runs about $50, and your computer — the app only works with a Windows platform.

USB Safeguard*

The USB Safeguard encryption software also uses AES-256 encryption for files, folders and drives. The highlights of USB Safeguard are just what its name implies: its safety features. The app lets you create virtual containers to keep your data safe, and also automatically locks when unplugged or when a user is inactive for a certain time. The potential drawbacks noted in online reviews? USB Safeguard only supports Windows and encryption of files up to 2GB. After that, it’s around $23 per license.

Kruptos 2 Go-USB Vault*

While there are several encryption software options for Windows, there aren’t as many for macOS. Kruptos 2 uses the stronger AES-256 encryption and notes that it can be used across platforms for Windows, macOS, and Android. While the process for encryption is relatively easy and the cost is around $24.95, the drawbacks are that you can’t encrypt an entire partition or system drive like you can with others, and the encryption process is reported to be slower than free tools like VeraCrypt.

Disk Encryption For Mac

How to encrypt a flash drive for free

There are several free options for encrypting the data on your flash drive through third-party tools. The differences in their efficacy seem to hinge on differences in their platforms, functions, and algorithms.

VeraCrypt*

VeraCrypt is another free third-party data encryption tools. It’s based on earlier software known as TrueCrypt and can function cross-platform. This encryption software can be used with Windows, OS X, and Linus. The product is able to hide encrypted volumes within other volumes through AES, TwoFish, and Serpent encryption.

AxCrypt*

AxCrypt software requires an annual fee for Mac and mobile applications, but it’s a free, open source encryption tool for Windows. This software allows you to encrypt either a file or an entire folder. AxCrypt can use timed encryption, letting you schedule the encryption and decryption of specific files or folders for a certain amount of time according to your needs and uses.

One difference? AxCrypt can’t create encrypted volumes the way VeraCrypt can. Also, the free version supports the AES-128 algorithm, which isn’t as strong as AES-256 encryption.

DiskCryptor*

This tool is another free, open source program that supports drive and volume encryption for Windows. DiskCryptor supports complex system configurations and lets you choose between the algorithms AES-256, Serpent, and Twofish.

GNU Privacy Guard*

This open source encryption software supports several types of encryption and can be used with Windows, OS X, and Linus. This tool is useful in its ability to encrypt individual files, disk images, volumes, external drives, and connected media.

7-Zip*

7-Zip is free file archive software for Windows, OS X and Linus. This encryption tool supports 256-bit AES encryption. It’s easy-to-use in its ability to use an encryption key to encrypt multiple files with one click.

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* The inclusion of websites, apps, or links does not imply endorsement or support of any company, material, product and/or provider listed herein.

There are many encryption options available. The main takeaway? Your platform, the size of your files, your level of expertise, and your willingness to pay are a few of the factors to consider in deciding how to encrypt your data.

But there’s one constant. If you have sensitive data on your flash drive, encryption — whether it’s applied to all or only part of the drive — is important in keeping your sensitive information safe and secure.

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FileVault is one of those Mac features that you know is there but are never really sure what it’s there for. Apple has never really made a big song and dance about how the feature protects your data or why you should bother with it, so we’re going to do it instead.

This won’t be a literal song and dance, unfortunately, (we don’t have the natural rhythm) but we will tell you all you need to know about FileVault, as well as how and why you should use it. But feel free to sing the words as you read them and dance along at the same time.

Okay, let’s get into it.

What is FileVault?

FileVault is macOS’s built-in disk encryption feature. It's designed to encrypt your Mac's hard drive and all of the files located on the drive using 128-bit AES encryption with a 256-bit key.

Once FileVault is enabled on your Mac, all existing data will be encrypted. From then on, any new and changed data will be automatically locked down and password protected on boot to prevent unauthorized access.

Disk Encryption For Mac And Windows

FileVault was originally introduced to Mac back in 2003 on OS X 10.3 Panther. But to say it wasn’t very good would be an understatement. It was terrible. The functionality was poor, the implementation was shoddy, and only the home directory could be encrypted.

Thankfully, 2003 was a long time ago and now, with FileVault 2, you can expect full-disk encryption and the ability to use the Find My Mac feature to wipe your drive remotely if ever your system falls into suspect hands.

Should I use FileVault?

Yes, is the short answer.

If you’re concerned about the privacy of your files and user data, and your computer contains information that shouldn’t be seen without authorized access, you should absolutely use FileVault disk encryption.

The feature is particularly good if you’re a MacBook user that regularly takes your laptop on the move where there’s a greater chance of it becoming lost or misplaced.

FileVault offers peace of mind and that counts for a lot. There are, however, reasons why you might not want to bother with the feature.

First of all, FileVault enforces a password. If you struggle to remember passwords (it’s well worth using a password manager if you do) or prefer using your Mac without one, you might consider FileVault to be more effort than it’s worth.

Secondly, FileVault encryption is backed into the CPU which can affect performance. If you own a newer SSD-equipped Mac you’re unlikely to notice the difference, but in older Macs with HDDs performance can take a significant hit — enough for you to consider using your computer without encryption.

How to check if FileVault is enabled?

In systems running OS X Yosemite 10.10 and newer, Apple encourages you to turn on FileVault 2 during setup. So, if you’re using a newer Mac, there’s every chance that your files are already being encrypted.

Here’s how to check:

  1. Click on the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. Select Privacy & Security.
  3. Click on the FileVault tab and the status will be displayed.

Before you turn on FileVault, be aware that the initial encryption process can take hours. However, it does run in the background so you can continue using your Mac as normal, albeit not at peak levels of performance.

Also, FileVault encrypts the entire disk. Any additional users will need to be enabled so that they can unlock the disk by entering their password.

How to turn on FileVault disk encryption

  1. Click on the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. Select Privacy & Security.
  3. Click on the FileVault tab, then click the lock in the bottom left corner of the window.
  4. Enter your administrator name and password and click Unlock.
  5. Click Turn On FileVault.
  6. Choose whether you want to link your iCloud account to FileVault to unlock the disk and reset your password or create a recovery key and click Continue.
  7. Click Restart to reboot your Mac and begin the encryption process.

Choosing a FileVault Recovery Key

Disk Encryption For Mac

The FileVault recovery key deserves special mention here. If you choose this option over linking your iCloud account, it’s critical that you make a note of the recovery key and keep it in a safe place that’s not on your hard drive. Losing the recovery key makes your data unrecoverable so it’s worth writing it down and storing it in a safe place, as well as entering it into a password manager.

How do I turn off FileVault?

Once your disk has been encrypted you can turn off FileVault at any time. You might decide to do this if you find that the feature is too resource-heavy or this particular level of security isn’t for you.

  1. Click on the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. Select Privacy & Security.
  3. Click on the FileVault tab, then click the lock in the bottom left corner of the window.
  4. Enter your administrator name and password.
  5. Click Turn Off FileVault.

Disabling FileVault starts the process of decrypting all of your files. This runs in the background but, like encryption, is a lengthy process.

How do I keep online and offline activity private?

FileVault’s capabilities only extend as far as user data and file encryption. Other things you do on your Mac like web browsing, chatting via messaging apps, downloading software, and using files locally are not private.

Of course, in the event that your Mac is lost, for anyone to see your online and local activity they’d need to enter the admin password first. But if you share computer access and want to keep your activity private, the best option is to use an app like CleanMyMac X.

The latest edition of MacPaw’s leading utility tool comes with a Privacy feature that lets you wipe off all unwanted traces and any information that may compromise your privacy. All you need to do is choose a suitable period and let CleanMyMac X take care of the rest. While it’s possible to delete browsing history, remove downloads, and clear cookies manually, this tool lets you take care of everything at once so you don’t need to worry about it.

Protect your data, maintain your privacy

If there’s anything on your computer that you prefer to keep to yourself, you can safeguard your information in two simple ways:

1. Enable FileVault so that all of your user data and files are kept under lock and key.

2. Download CleanMyMac X to keep all online and local activity private.

In a world where computer viruses and data theft is rife, privacy and security should be your top priority. These tools will make sure your information is never compromised.

CleanMyMac X is the biggest and best Mac utility tool on the market, designed to clean, protect, and optimize your system for outstanding performance. Download the app today.

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