If you are looking for file encryption software, you are taking an important step to preserve personal privacy in a world hostile toward the concept. Of course, you already have a firewall and antivirus software to fight against malware and phishing. However, even if you avoid viruses and sidestep infected websites, unless you encrypt your data files they can wind up in the wrong hands. Our review of the best encryption applications includes SafeHouse Personal Edition, although it uses a non-standard encryption algorithm and it lacks quite a few competitive features.
Most Windows file encryption software uses the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), specifically the 256-bit key version that the U.S. government and military uses. Twofish was one of five finalists competing to become the AES. However, it lost to the Rijndael algorithm, which became the current Advanced Encryption Standard. The Twofish source code is not copyrighted, and it is free and unpatented. Dozens of encryption software products use the Twofish algorithm. Just because Twofish did not become our AES, doesn’t mean that it is weak. Nobody in your lifetime is likely to decipher documents that you encrypt with the 256-bit key implementation of the Twofish algorithm in SafeHouse Personal Edition. It is so powerful, in fact, that the United States forbids it to be exported to countries that support terrorism: Cuba, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, North Korea, Syria and Iran.
Successful encryption and decryption is not an issue. What is at issue is the lack of additional safety features, items that you might want to use alongside encryption activities. For example, a majority of encryption software products support the concept of a self-extracting EXE file that you can distribute to recipients who can open it with a password from you, even though they have not purchased a software license. If you want to send an encrypted file from SafeHouse Personal Edition, the receiver must have also purchased the software. Another quite glaring example of a feature missing from SafeHouse Personal Edition but present in most of its competition is a file shredder. Windows does not actually remove a deleted file from a hard drive; it just hides it from file directory view. Anyone with file recovery software and access to your hard drive can gain access to the files that you “deleted.” If you have files important enough to encrypt, then you will not relish the idea that any deleted documents in your PC are subject to high-tech resurrection.
The publisher of SafeHouse software maintains helpful material online: documentation, answers to frequently asked questions, product release history and practical tips. A few of the vendors in our review of file encryption software provide telephone access to customer support. However, email is the only access to support for SafeHouse clients.
Although SafeHouse Personal Edition implements a heretofore uncracked encryption algorithm (Twofish), it is not the same as the governmental and commercial standard (AES). However, the drawbacks to SafeHouse Personal Edition have nothing to do with the strength of its encryption. What is lacking in SafeHouse Personal Edition are a couple of features that some competitors include: the ability to distribute encrypted files to recipients who have not purchased the application, and the ability to permanently shred a deleted file.
SafeHouse adds a new drive letter to Windows where it stores your encrypted files. Any file that you add to the SafeHouse drive letter is protected.
There is no utility that shreds deleted files.
SafeHouse Personal Edition is a powerful encryption utility even though it doesn’t use the industry standard algorithm, but it doesn’t provide enough additional features to compete with conviction.