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Protecting Your Files and Folders

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as safe data on a computer these days. Hacking attempts and other exploits are increasingly on the rise, causing a direct threat to your personal data. In order to secure your confidential files and folders, you should configure them with password protection or go one step further with encryption. By doing so, you can limit the chances of someone breaking into the system and viewing or stealing your sensitive data.

Windows XP Professional Edition

The Windows operating system comes with security tools that allow you to encrypt and password protect your files and folders. The steps below are for XP Professional users who have set up multiple accounts and want to encrypt certain data:

1. Select the file or folder you want to encrypt

2. Rick-click the file or folder and select "Properties"

3. Click the "Advanced" tab

4. Check the option for "Encrypt contents to secure data"

6. Click "Apply"

7. Click "OK"

Windows XP Home Edition

The steps below are for XP Home Edition users who want to password protect their files and folders:

1. Select the file or folder you want to password protect

2. Rick-click the file or folder and select "Properties"

3. Click on the "Sharing" tab

4. Check the option for "Make this folder private." If your user account does not already have a password, a box will display asking that you assign one. This is what will make the folder private. Once assigning the password, you will be required to enter it every time you log on to the computer.

5. Enter a password and then confirm it by clicking the "Create Password" tab.

5. Click "Apply"

6. Click "OK"

More Security Options

An easier and more efficient way to encrypt or password protect your files and folders is to install third-party software. There are many available options including free solutions like Axantum Software's AxCrypt, the popular TrueCrypt program and Folder Guard, a widely used commercial product.

AxCrypt - This lightweight software uses encryption to password protect your individual files. It makes a viable option for protecting your laptop, PDA or other portable device. The encryption algorithm used by AxCrypt is so efficient that a strong password could take a cracker millions of years to determine.

TrueCrypt - TrueCrypt is in open-source software that supports Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating systems. This feature-rich package is one of the best with the ability to create virtual encrypted disks and encrypt entire partitions, hard drives and removable storage media. It also performs transparent encryption on the fly.

Folder Guard - This software allows you to hide, password protect or restrict access to your files and folders. It also gives you the ability to restrict access to other critical resources such as the Start Menu, Control Panel, Desktop and more. Folder Guard works on networked and standalone computers.

What You Should Know

While these methods are effective, a file is never 100% protected. This can be attributed to the readily available tools that enable malicious hackers to break the strongest of encryption schemes. In order to get the best protection, we recommend commercial products or devices that contain hardware-based encryption.

 

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Spyware has many ways of getting onto your computer, such as:

When you download programs - particularly freeware, or peer-to-peer sharing programs.

More covertly, spyware can install itself just by you visiting certain sites, by prompting you to download an application to see the site properly.

ActiveX controls. These pesky spyware makers will prompt you to install themselves while using your Internet browser