Cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive permit users to backup their data and synchronize it across different devices (such as laptops, desktops, mobile phones, etc) using cloud storage technology that resides on servers controlled by those entities. While a great solution for many users, others are apprehensive or skeptical to entrust their private data to third parties. Fortunately, it is possible to enjoy the benefits and convenience of cloud storage while maintaining the security and complete privacy of your data by encrypting all of your data before it leaves your computer.
There are several different third-party encryption utilities that you can use to accomplish the same thing, but of those I have tested Cryptomator is the best and easiest to work with. Cryptomator is an open-source project which means that it's source code is open to review and that makes it easy for users to know that it doesn't have back-doors or exploits built into it. Cryptomator works by encrypting files on your computer before they are sent to the cloud. This gives Dropbox and Google zero knowledge of what is contained in your files. Since your data is encrypted before leaving your computer, it is only stored in its encrypted form on the cloud service's servers. In the event that your cloud provider's security is compromised or your login credentials stolen, no one will be able to access your encrypted data without the encryption key you used to secure them.
Here is how you can do so in a few simple steps without the need to purchase anything.
The above image shows the regular, unencrypted folder as it appeared in the local Dropbox folder. After moving the files to the encrypted vault we created, you can see how even the filenames are encrypted (image below).
If you followed the steps in this guide correctly, you now have an encrypted folder full of files stored in the cloud that can only be accessed by you, even if your Dropbox or cloud account is compromised. You are now able to have peace of mind while enjoying the benefits of using your cloud account to backup or collaboration. If you look at your encrypted vault folder on Dropbox's web portal you will see that the files are completely encrypted and reveal nothing (other than file size) about what is contained in the files. This is ideal for anyone who wants secure and encrypted cloud storage. I can't stress enough how important it is to have a secure backup of your password or encryption key. You should keep this printed out in a secure or locked place in case you are forgetful or cannot remember the password you used to encrypt the folder.
Cryptomator has several advanced options that you can configure if you want to take advantage of them. Since I find it most useful to use an incredibly complicated password that would be impossible to type each time, I use the option to "save password" and "auto-unlock on start" and then use a 40 or 50 character complex password which I store in a password manager on each of my computers. This affords optimal encryption for data stored on the cloud but keeps it easy enough to use on each of my computers.
You should not use these options on a public computer or one that you share with another person because it would defeat the purpose of encryption if you set it to automatically unlock in those cases.
There you have it. Free, encrypted cloud storage. If you found this article useful, please share it or tell your friends! Everyone is safer when we all practice good security.