Five small and essential apps to armor your PC

Lincoln spector
By Lincoln Spector

Protecting yourself from the criminals of the Internet shouldn’t cost you a fortune. In fact, it doesn’t have to cost you anything.

Firewalls and antivirus programs can’t do all the work of safe computing — small, targeted utility apps that encrypt your files, keep your passwords safe, and clean up your PC add to your protection.

I have five of these small security apps that I wouldn’t want to do without. Chances are you could use them, too; if not now, then someday.

What’s even better — they’re free.

Lock your sensitive data in a hidden vault

First up is TrueCrypt, a free download (page) that gives you on-the-fly disk encryption. It works on all current versions of Windows plus Mac OS X and Linux systems.

We all have files that need to be kept private — financial spreadsheets containing credit-card and bank-account numbers, confidential business plans, lists of clients, or maybe just something very personal.

Forget about the encryption tools included with Windows, which are designed to be as simple to use as possible. For example, if you encrypt a folder through Windows, that folder is completely accessible when you’re signed in and completely inaccessible when someone else is signed in to that PC with a different user account. You’re never consciously saying, “Now I need access to my private information” or “Now I can lock that information away again.” Your data is vulnerable every time you get up for a cup of coffee.

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Lincoln Spector

About Lincoln Spector

Lincoln Spector writes about computers, home theater, and film and maintains two blogs: Answer Line at PCWorld.com and Bayflicks.net. His articles have appeared in CNET, InfoWorld, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications.