How to protect your data, part one

By most accounts Mac OS X and iOS are safer operating systems than Windows or Android. However, there was a dubious report from GFI (a company that makes “IT solutions that enable businesses to discover, manage and secure their networks” ) in April that claimed that OS X and iOS are the “most vulnerable” operating systems.

Whether Apple makes the most or least secure operating systems, there are good reasons to protect your data from loss and from prying eyes. The best way to accomplish the former is simply to back up your data to external hard drives (at least one of which you keep somewhere other than your home or office), as well as having a “cloud” backup. When it comes to backing up to external drives, the Time Machine feature in Mac OS X makes it simple and easy.

When it comes to online backups, there are various solutions. My personal favorite is CrashPlan from Code 42, which offers unlimited storage space and lets you upload files of any size. CrashPlan’s backup data is encrypted with a 128-bit key for free users with 448-bit encryption available for CrashPlan Central subscribers. Backup transmission is then scrambled using 128-bit encryption.

Keys are created using a random number generator and are escrowed with your archive at each destination. You should note that the Unlimited plan only allows backup from a single computer. Pricing starts at US$5.99 per month. Details can be found here. Also, you can compare these prices with those of other services to see if CrashPlan is right for you.

When it comes to encrypting your data, there are several software solutions. FileVault is a feature Apple bakes into Mac OS X. Enable it from the Security & Privacy pane of System Preferences, and encryption and decryption of all your hard drive data are performed on-the-fly.

If you need to hide certain data on your Mac from prying eyes while keeping other data easily accessible, MacPaw’s Hider 2 for Mac OS X makes this easy. The software lets you hide and encrypt files and folders on a file-by-file basis. It encrypts your files with AES-256 encryption upon hiding. A demo is available at the MacPaw website. Hider 2 is available at the website and at the Mac App Store for US$19.99.

Boxcryptor is Mac OS X encryption software for Dropbox, Google Drive and other providers. It allows Mac users to encrypt and decrypt files with a Boxcryptor file format that was recently introduced. Boxcrypter is available in a free, basic version. There’s also an unlimited personal version for $48 per year, and an unlimited business version for $96 per year.

FileMaker 13 Pro Advanced for Mac OS X and iOS (as well as Windows) provides robust security, with AES 256-bit encryption that locks down data no matter where it lives — on an iPad, iPhone, desktop or server. Monthly prices start at $9 for FileMaker Pro; $15 for FileMaker Pro Advanced, and $29 for FileMaker Server under the FileMaker Annual Volume License Agreement, which is billed annually (minimum quantities apply). Traditional software licenses are also available starting at $329 for new FileMaker Pro 13 licenses and $179 for FileMaker Pro 13 upgrades.

The FileMaker Go for iPad and iPhone App is free from the Apple App Store. Server concurrent connections for FileMaker Go or FileMaker WebDirect are priced at $25 per 5-pack per month, and are available from FileMaker and software resellers.

Centrify Corp., which specializes in Unified Identity Services, offers the Centrify User Suite, Mac Edition. The company says it’s the industry’s first solution to provide robust Active Directory-based authentication, policy management, single sign-on (SSO) and user self-service for connected and remote Mac OS X systems. Pricing is $48 per user/annually for up to five devices (any combination of Mac and/or mobile devices per user) and includes standard support.

Remo Software offers Remo ZIP Free Edition for Mac. It’s a compression utility that offers 10 levels of lossless file compression from “SuperFast” to “Best.” There’s a free, basic version, as well as a paid version ($29.95) allows users to create .zip files larger than 4GB and add password protection and encryption.

Lunabee makes Mac OS X and iOS versions of their password manager app, oneSafe. It allows users to sync their sensitive information across all their devices using iCloud.

oneSafe for Mac also boasts features such as automatic backup, the ability to drag and drop files into the app, a high encryption level (AES 256), over 100 card templates for entry and retrieval of information, double protection categories and more. It’s available at the Mac App Store and Apple App Store for $19.99 and $4.99, respectively.

Then, there are hardware solutions. We’ll look at those tomorrow.