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Keep Your Files and Messages Private with These Encryption Apps

To protect your data, use the best tools to encrypt your hard drive; email and messages; and Internet activities.

Apps in this Guide

With recent reports of governments spying on their citizens -- and spying on each other -- using encryption tomore

With recent reports of governments spying on their citizens -- and spying on each other -- using encryption to secure our files and communications is an important step in guarding our data and privacy.

You can find dedicated tools to encrypt files, hard drives, Internet traffic, and data stored in the cloud.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use an encrypted email service?
While Gmail does a good job of protecting your privacy, it does scan your email to display relevant ads. (Google goes out of its way to tell you no one is reading your email, however.) But if the thought of your email being automatically scanned makes you nervous, check out an email service like ProtonMail, which keeps your email encrypted end to end -- from you, to its servers, to your recipient.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or virtual private network, creates a secure tunnel through the Internet, encrypting your data as it travels over a public network. A VPN can skirt geographical content restrictions and evade content filtering and censorship. You can find free and paid VPNs, but unless your needs are slight, it's worth subscribing to a trusted service, such as IVPN or AirVPN.
What about a secure browser?
The Tor browser, from the nonprofit Tor Project, is designed to keep your Internet traffic private, allowing you to surf the web and chat anonymously. Tor consists of a modified Firefox browser and a collection of tools that work together to keep communications anonymous.
How can I encrypt my files on a cloud service?
Google and other major cloud services may encrypt what you store on their cloud servers, but you often have limited control over how your data gets encrypted and who can decrypt it. If you want more control, check out a service like Mega, which handles encryption and decryption on your end, putting you in control of your data. If you'd rather not switch cloud services, however, try Cryptomator, which lets you store encrypted files on Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and other cloud services.
Can I encrypt text messages and video and voice chats?
Both Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger offer end-to-end encryption for messages. And both rely on encryption technology from Open Whisper Systems, maker of its own trusted -- and end-to-end encrypted -- app, Signal. If you'd like to go to the source, Signal has iOS and Android messaging apps and a desktop version you can link to your mobile account. And you make secure voice and video calls as well as send text messages.
How do I encrypt my hard drive?
The Windows Bitlocker disk encryption tool lets you encrypt the contents of your hard drive to guard against someone accessing your computer and stealing your data. If you'd rather put your trust in an open-source tool, Veracrypt is a respected free disk encryption software for Windows.

Recommended Windows Encryption Software

Veracrypt

Veracrypt

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For disk encryption, Veracrypt is a free and open-source disk-encryption tool for Windows, based on the no-longer-maintained TrueCrypt tool.

IVPN

IVPN

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If you are looking for a virtual private network, for $8.33 a month, you can run the respected IVPN on three devices -- including Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android -- and get access to nearly three dozen servers in 13 regions.

ProtonMail

ProtonMail

For email, ProtonMail offers free end-to-end email encryption via iOS and Android apps and web-based email.

Cryptomator

Cryptomator

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To encrypt files stored in cloud services, the free Cryptomator software handles file encryption on your side, letting you upload encrypted files to any cloud service.

Mega cloud storage

Mega cloud storage

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For cloud storage, Mega gives you 50GB of free cloud storage space with your files encrypted and decrypted on your end, giving you control over encryption. 4TB of encrypted storage runs less than $10 a month.

Signal Private Messenger

Signal Private Messenger

For secure messaging, the free Signal communications service lets you hold end-to-end encrypted text, voice, and video chats on mobile phones and via a browser extension.

Tor Browser

Tor Browser

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Want a secure Web browser? The free Tor Browser can help you stay secure and anonymous on the Internet.