Security on your desktop computing devices can be a hairy & unruly beast. It can often require a significant investment on your part to improve your security stance — but it doesn’t have to be that way. Herein we will explore some of the great desktop applications you can start using at no cost to improve the security of your desktop systems. But before we begin let’s explain what open source is.
Free and Open source software are software licensed very specific rights associated with its use, modification, distribution and use that are not commonly available to a user via commercial software. The source code (computer code) is available to other developers and users to use modify and distribute. In essence, for the end user, free and open source software means you can use that software without cost to you (although donations are always appreciated to support the project). There is also no need for license keys and annoying activation procedures. Free and open source software has always held personal freedoms and privacy as maxims, so its much more respectful of its users (privacy/freedom) than commercial software tends to be. Now that we know what open source is let’s explore some desktop/cloud apps that can improve your security day-to-day. All of these are available on all major desktop platforms such as Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, BSD and others.
GNU Privacy Guard (A.K.A. GnuPG or GPG) is a powerful tool for secure email and file encryption. This application allows you to sign/encrypt email as well as files on your system. Although it is a command line system, there are a variety of graphical front ends on different platforms which give you flexibility on how you implement this encryption tool. One such example for Microsoft Windows is Gpg4win which is a full graphical version of this application.
Veracrypt is powerful disk encryption tool which makes it easy to encrypt a partition, entire drive or external storage. Its simple graphical interface makes it extremely user friendly option on the desktop. Most desktops OS have encryption baked in but you may want an alternative such as Veracrypt for its extensive features and rigorous security.
Passwords are a pain but password managers can help. Keepass is a powerful password management tool that allows you to securely store your passwords in an encrypted database. Far to often people make the colossal mistake of writing passwords down and keeping them in places that are not secure. Keepass allows you to create an encrypted file that is much less likely to be pilfered and misused vs your old sticky notes.
Today cloud/online storage is all the rage. Cloud storage providers such as Dropbox, Box and even Microsoft One drive are used as commonly as local storage. Cryptomator is client side, transparent encryption for your cloud files. Cryptomator is extremely easy to setup and use and fulfills a much needed void for securing your files transparently in the cloud.
Subgraph is a full blown secure operating system that endeavors to be your adversary resistant computing platform. This means it is a full operating system designed to be easy to use and resistant to the supernumerary threats we all face from cybercriminals, nation states and others. It is currently in its early stages but is making big strides in a hardened secure OS that is quite easy to use for even the most casual of users.
We could continue on for days but this is a great list of a few open source projects to look into for your day-to-day desktop computing needs. If you find these applications useful consider giving these projects a donation to fund ongoing development. When we support open source projects either through development, advocacy or donations we help the projects grow and thrive – and everyone benefits from this. Remember to pay it forward – it’s the open source way.
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