Do you store sensitive information like bank account numbers, addresses, credit card information, passwords and similar data on your PC? No doubt you do. This type of information one may need to keep handy, but may not want it available to whomever they may share their PC with or to possible hackers. So how to keep it safe, yet easily accessible?
Cryptainer PE is encryption software which I had never even heard of until a friend brought it to my attention. It will encrypt any type of data on a Windows (95/98/Me/2000/XP/2003 Server/Vista) PC on any type of media including hard drives, CD ROM’s, removable drives, flash disks and even the memory card on your camera. Additionally, Cryptainer PE allows you to send encrypted email files. It can even be used as a type of backup for your most important files which is a good habit to get into!
It creates a type of generic ‘ghost’ file or ‘volume’ (not a hidden file or folder) that is heavily encrypted and can be loaded and unloaded with a password or pass phrase. Cryptainer runs a 448 bit implementation of the Blowfish algorithm in Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) mode with a block size of 64 bytes. It also offers an option of AES at 256 bits. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds good!
Let’s see Cryptainer PE in action and I’m sure you will get a better appreciation of what it can do.
Cryptainer installs swiftly and near the end of setup, you are prompted to create the encrypted volume:
As you can see, you can choose not only the location of the Cryptainer volume, but the volume’s name, its size in MB (maximum 25GB with Cryptainer PE) and of course, the password.
When all is to your liking, press “Proceed to Create Volume” and Cryptainer will do so:
Once it is done, the following dialog box appears:
This is the main Cryptainer user interface:
Here’s how the loaded Cryptainer volume appears in My Computer:
A tray icon appears as well when a volume is loaded (or minimized):
Now you can move files into your Cryptainer volume by drag and drop, copy (or cut) and paste from Windows Explorer or using the shortcuts “Copy this file” or “Move this File” in the Common Tasks sidebar in XP. There is no need to encrypt individual files; they are encrypted once they are moved into the Cryptainer volume.
There is also a “View in Explorer” feature which will open the volume in a more familiar Windows Explorer interface:
In Windows Explorer:
Unfortunately, this view does not include all the drives on the PC, which would be very handy to have for file management. It offers no real advantage over the default Cryptainer user interface (UI).
Encrypt Email: this is a nice feature: the ability to encrypt a single file from anywhere on your hard drive (not necessarily one already in the Cryptainer volume) and send it via email to a recipient, either as a self-extracting executable (.exe) or as a .SIT file which is more secure and requires the free download (862KB) of “DeCypherIt” to extract it.
Navigate to the desired file if it exists outside of the Cryptainer volume. If it is located within the volume, click the file once to highlight it, then click on Secure Email>Encrypt File to send by Email..”. Enter a password or pass phrase and a password hint.
No matter which method you chose to encrypt the file, the resultant file is created in the same location, but with a .exe (right, below) or .sit extension as the case may be.
These files can now be sent as an attachment using the email program of your choice. If you use the .exe file, the recipient, upon saving the file to their PC and double-clicking it, will see the following dialog box in which they enter the password you have supplied them.
Note that some email software will not allow the sending or receiving of .exe files. In this case, the recipient is better off to get the free DeCypherIt program and you send them the .SIT file instead.
Using a writeable CD or DVD or even a removable USB drive, you can use Cryptainer to create a self-contained volume that requires no additional software to be installed on the PC to access and use the volume. Now, the encrypted files can be accessed on any PC (with a password, of course). This is quite easy to do and the Help files will walk you through this.
It’s great to come across software that fulfills a particular niche and does it well. Cryptainer is such a product. It works quickly, flawlessly and almost invisibly once the volume is loaded and accessed through Windows Explorer. May only complaint is that clicking the “View in Explorer” button doesn’t show the entire contents of one’s PC, only the Cryptainer volume in the Windows Explorer interface.
Nevertheless, it’s a great program at a good price and it is guaranteed to give you peace of mind, knowing any sensitive data you have stored within the Cryptainer volume is safe.
If you are interested in trying out Cryptainer, download the free, fully functional Cryptainer LE which offers 128 Bit disk encryption and a 25MB maximum volume size. http://www.cypherix.com/cryptainerle/index.htm
Originally posted: September 3, 2005
Updated: September 24, 2005