Mac Encryption Software Review
How to Choose Encryption Software
The top performers in our review are Concealer, the Gold Award winner; Espionage 3, the Silver Award winner; and Data Guardian 3, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing Mac encryption software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these eight products.
Personal information on your Mac laptop or desktop computer could be at risk if the wrong person gets a hold of the data. Tax documents from years past may sit on your Mac's hard drive with your social security number, address and birthdate. That's plenty of information for someone to steal your identity. You can keep the convenience of storing your credit card numbers, social security number, addresses and more on your computer if you use encryption software for Macs.
Laptop users are more at risk of having their data stolen because thieves can more easily get their hands on your computer. A short password is easy to deal with for a security expert, so after a short time with password-cracking software, a criminal could be sifting through your most private files.
Encryption software can protect your data should you lose your laptop, or if someone manages to get to your desktop. So, even if the person gets to your files and folders, they can't read the sensitive data you have stored and encrypted without the password to decrypt.
The way encryption software works is by simply scrambling data using a cipher so that no one else can read it unless they're able to decrypt, or decipher, the file or folder. Choosing a long and strong password is equally important as the encryption you use, if not more so, according to experts in internet security and computer forensics we spoke with. You should use a phrase or sentence that's easy for you to remember and use a variety of characters, such as lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
Typical data – your photos, music and movies, and other basic files – likely don't need encryption. For the most part, laptop thieves are looking to wipe your drives and sell the hardware. If a knowledgeable criminal pokes around your files to try to find sensitive information, he or she is likely to just pass over most of your data in the hunt for something more lucrative, such as financial documents, pay stubs and tax information.
The programs we looked at are specifically for Macintosh computers, and most of the Mac encryption software we reviewed and ranked works on the latest versions of the Mac operating system. If you use a personal computer or laptop with a Windows operating system, though, you need to use encryption software for PCs. And if you keep sensitive information on your cell phone, you need to protect those files, too. Mobile encryption software can help protect your files on your phone, which gives you peace of mind if you happen to misplace your phone or someone steals it.
Encrypting your files is just one way to protect yourself from the number of cybercriminals looking to make a quick buck on your dime or your name. There are layers of protection to ensure your data is locked up tightly, so be sure to check out our lineup of the best Mac internet security suites.
For small to large businesses, encryption software is a must to keep proprietary information safe and secret. That's where security solutions for enterprises come into play, like Sophos SafeGuard Encryption for Mac. You can find more information about the different programs available in our articles about Mac Encryption Software.
Mac Encryption Software: What We Tested, What We Found
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the software in our comparison on loan from the companies and through retail purchase. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
The best Mac encryption software walks you through creating a volume or vault in which you store your files or data, so it's as easy as following the guide and then dragging and dropping your files. You want software that quickly encrypts and decrypts your data – if you have gigs upon gigs of data to encrypt, you don't want to be stuck at your computer for hours as it ciphers your data. Software that includes password generators and password strength meters is also helpful.
After thoroughly testing the top Mac encryption software, we found that the best programs were able to quickly convert 63 files that totaled 134.5MB. Most of the software we tested proved to be very easy to use – a few clicks and assigning a password was all that it needed to get everything locked up tightly.
We also tested how easily we were able to decipher the files we encrypted, because you often need to send files via email or flash drive to another person. We awarded the software points for making the process easy for the recipients, too.
We also looked at the type of cipher each program uses to encrypt your data and gave more credit to those that use what is considered the standard for many governments: AES 256. The Advanced Standard Encryption, which is what the U.S. government uses to keep its information secure, is the winning code once named the Rijndael cipher. The 256-bit key effectively mixes up data into random bits of information, blocks at a time, and it is considered the strongest encryption algorithm. Other ciphers encryption software uses include Blowfish and Twofish, which are versions of each other – Twofish being the latest. All of these ciphers scramble data essentially the same way, but Blowfish and Twofish aren't nearly as popular or considered as secure as AES. Most of the programs available for encrypting data and files on Macs use the operating system's built-in disk utility, so you automatically get AES 256-bit key encryption.
You can create your own password when you're ready to lock away your encrypted files, but a password generator is a safer bet. The longer and more randomized your password is, the harder it is for criminals to crack. We gave more credit in this area to the Mac encryption software with password generators and password strength meters, like Concealer and Data Guardian 3, than programs that do not have them. Even though you can access the password assistant that Macs include in the operating system, the encryption programs that pull the password assistant from the OS X make it easy to access, and therefore more convenient for you.
Another excellent addition to encryption software is a file-shredding feature. Simply deleting a file isn't enough – data recovery programs can get that information back easily. When you're ready to get rid of files permanently, this option is invaluable. When a program like MacKeeper shreds a file, it actually overwrites the file with random data several times to make the original unrecoverable.
What Else Is Important in Choosing Mac Encryption Software?
Whether or not you're new to computer security, there are times that you may need help from tech or customer support. You also want to ensure that the program you choose works on your current operating system and upgrades as you do.
If you're slow to upgrade your operating system, you know you need to check the system requirements of any new software or app you download or purchase. It's important to use encryption software that supports whatever version of the Mac OS X you have. Only Data Guardian 3 offers cross-platform compatibility so you can encrypt files on your Mac and then decipher that data on a personal computer running a Windows operating system. The best software supports multiple operating systems, though we did not consider these other systems in the ranking of the software in our lineup.
Help & Support
Customer and tech support may make or break a purchase for you – a complete absence of support could be detrimental. All of the software manufacturers we've featured in our lineup offer at least email support. Some of the best companies also give you access to FAQs, live chat, tutorials, videos and user manuals to help you acquaint yourself with the software.
Encryption Software: Is a Free Option Enough for Your Needs?
Apple offers a free option for encryption through its disk repair and imaging utility. You can easily encrypt files, folders and volumes using Disk Utility. It's built into OS X and is easy to find with Spotlight or Finder. You can create a compressed disk image and use the strongest encryption key available – AES 256-bit. After applying a password to protect your file or folder, you're done. All that's missing from this free version of security is a good-looking graphic interface and some of the extra features that some paid programs give you, like a password generator or file shredder. If you're simply looking for a way to lock away your files securely, then you'll want to consider Disk Utility.
Our Verdicts and Recommendations
At the end of our testing, we decided that Concealer provided the best of what we wanted out of Mac encryption software. Our files were safe and secure, and the files didn't take up much more space on our computers than what we started with. An added convenience is access to the password assistant found on Mac operating systems.
Espionage 3 impressed us with its ease of use and ironclad cipher. It doesn't offer as many features as the top-rated software, but it gives you a password strength meter, which is helpful when you're unsure how secure your password is.
If you use both Macs and PCs, then you'll want to consider Data Guardian 3, the only cross-platform program in our lineup, so you can decipher encrypted files and folders on OS X or Windows OS. It also gives you access to a password generator and strength meter.
A unique program is R10Cipher, which encrypts text in the more direct sense. You can input a message or data in one field and watch as it is encrypted. After you password-protect it, you can send the scrambled message by text, email or other format. The recipient can paste the coded message into the program and enter the password and then read the message.
All of the programs we included in our list of the best Mac encryption software work effectively to keep your files and data safe. Whether you choose one with extra features or a simpler one, you can rest assured that no one will break into your encrypted folders or drives – just be sure to use a strong password.