When you save files on your computer, to an external drive, or when these files are uploaded to a cloud service (like Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive) for storage or backup, they are primarily protected by physical or password access. In other words, someone cannot read all of your files either because they can’t put their hands on your computer or drives, or because they don’t know your computer or cloud service password.
But computers and drives get lost or stolen, and passwords are guessed or hacked. In the case of cloud services, employees can access your files for ‘technical reasons’ and they themselves can get hacked. So if the contents of your files – text, numbers, images, whatever – is important or sensitive, you need to protect them in another way.
A way to protect the files is to use encryption. Encryption essentially scrambles the contents of a file and unscrambles it with a password. So even if someone has physical or remote access to your files, they cannot open them without a password.
Most desktops, laptops, and mobile devices offer a disk encryption feature so that no one can read or access your files by stealing your device. This adds a layer of protection to the normal log in with a password process you use to get on your computer, so that if someone even removes the drive and plugs it into another computer, the encryption password will be required before any files can be accessed. It’s encryption like this that prevents the FBI from accessing files on locked iPhones.
However, it’s not an option that’s always on by default. That’s why we encourage people to use a disk encryption tool on MacOS (via FileVault) and on Windows (via BitLocker) devices.
However, some may not be able to implement disk encryption on business computers and others may find it too complicated, unfamiliar, or find the process uncomfortable. And even with disk encryption, your files can become unprotected (at least partially) if they’re backed up to cloud storage or copied onto external drives for storage.
Fortunately there is another encryption solution that lacks these weaknesses – file or folder level encryption. Using this method, you choose which files you want to secure and keep them in an encrypted state that is not automatically decrypted when copied to the cloud or transferred onto external drives. You still MUST know the password to access the file, but the solutions that are best can be surprisingly convenient to use on a daily basis.
There are many file encryption apps and tools, but many just aren’t very user friendly. One that we find both easy to use and secure is NordLocker.
What is NordLocker?
NordLocker is an encryption tool made by the same company behind NordVPN, an excellent VPN. NordLocker allows you to encrypt files on your device with strong encryption and does so in a way that continues to protect your files when they’re moved to external drives or uploaded to cloud storage.
How it works
We won’t go into the technicalities of the encryption here – instead, we’ll go over how you can use NordLocker and what you can expect. For more detailed information on the encryption NordLocker uses, visit their website here.
Nordlocker works on your computer just like a regular folder or cloud folder (if you’ve ever installed Dropbox on your computer, for example) except they’re called Lockers. You can drop files in your and they get encrypted in the locker as they’re added. There are no limitations as to the size or type of the file that can get added into a locker – there’s only a size limit depending on the plan you have with NordLocker.
Accessing your files
To access your locker, you need a Master Password, which you set when you open your account with NordLocker. If you’ve ever used a password manager – the system is similar here. To access any file in your locker, you first need to type in the password in order to decrypt and access the file. If you lose your Master Password – you can use a Recovery Key (which is provided when you create a NordLocker account) to reset the password.
Encrypted File Sharing
NordLocker allows users to share files with each other without breaking the encryption, this means no one other than yourself and the user that is receiving your file can see the contents of the file, including NordLocker and any would-be snoopers. However, this option is only available between NordLocker users.
Encrypt Your Cloud Files
This is arguably the most appealing feature NordLocker provides and the reason we’d recommend it. When you upload your files to the cloud, you lose a lot of security and privacy because your files, by definition, are accessible online (as opposed to only on your device).
NordLocker allows you to upload an entire locker to the cloud (NordLocker supports all cloud storage services), encrypted, meaning no one can access those files unless they have access to your NordLocker account. If you want to access those files, just download the locker and decrypt it using your master password.
You can have a NordLocker account on any number or MacOS and Windows devices so this option makes it easy to access multiple files from, for example, your home desktop and your work laptop.
Plans and pricing
NordLocker offers two plans – free and Premium, with the biggest difference being how many files you can encrypt.
The free version allows up to 2GB of encryption while the premium plan has unlimited encryption available. Both plans provide 24/7 support but users on the premium plan have priority support. The Premium plan also offers a 30-day money back guarantee and has two pricing options.
You can pay $1 a month but be billed annually ($12 for the year) or you can opt for a month-by-month subscription and pay $1.49 a month instead.
We should also note that while file-sharing requires both users to have NordLocker – the feature is available for all plan users.
As the creators of NordVPN, a very effective VPN solution, we trust that NordLocker not only works as advertised but will also respect their users’ privacy. NordLocker cannot see the files it encrypts so even if the government or law enforcement asks NordLocker to provide the files it has on a user, it can’t (and even if it could, the contents would be encrypted).
NordLocker also goes to great lengths to offer the most secure form of encryption possible, making it nearly impossible for any hackers to access the contents of your files even if they steal your laptop.
Why it’s worth considering NordLocker
If you want to keep your files safe on your device and on the cloud, NordLocker offers an easy way to do that at a fairly affordable price (or free if you’re only looking to safeguard specific files). While needing to input a password to access your files every time may sound burdensome, it’s worth it if you’re working with extremely sensitive files or sharing them across multiple devices or users.