Category Archives: Encryption

Securing Your Passwords: Chromebook

In previous blog entries, I’ve shared how much I appreciate the wonderful work the free, open source password protection/tracking solution community has done for Keepass. I literally work on Android, GNU/Linux, iOS, and Mac every day (occasionally Windows), and being able to access my passwords across all those platforms is a fantastic!

Visit http://techualization.blogspot.com

Unfortunately, I was finding myself spending a lot of time on a Chromebook, so I needed a quick way to access my passwords via the Chromebook. Since you can’t install Windows/Mac/Linux software on a Chromebook–I’ve installed GNU/Linux OS on Chromebook, but switched back to ChromeOS–I needed something to interface with Keepass.

The solution I ran across is “BrowsePass,” which was developed in 2013 and is still under development. You can install it in any Chrome browser, but it also works fine on Chromebooks (get it as an add-on).

BrowsePass reads KeePass (http://keepass.info) password database file (only version 2). It can open both remote and local files. You’d use BrowsePass when you cannot install or download KeePass locally. BrowsePass runs entirely in your browser, no additional software is needed. BrowsePass DOES NOT support files created with KeePass version 1 (KDB files)!

This solution works great, and I encourage you to give it a try.


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Keep Your Stuff Secure

While I subscribe to the idea that we should encrypt all our communications, to be honest, it’s often a pain. I try to encrypt top secret text messages to my family using the cross-platform Telegram app. It’s easy to use, cross-platform, and allows voice messages in a way similar to WhatsApp, which isn’t secure (IMHO).

Image Source: https://www.eff.org/secure-messaging-scorecard

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has come out with its Secure Messaging Scorecard and I’m pleased to see some of the apps I’ve recommended to others on there, such as:

  1. Telegram: Fails audited code–they’ve announced a hacking contest, though–and past communications are not secure if your encryption key is stolen. Otherwise, this ranks highly for me as a must-have app. While I have used TextSecure, it’s not available for iOS, which means it’s not an option (you may also want to read this paper on TextSecure via cryptome.org).
  2. Mailvelope: You may recall that this is an easy to use text/messaging encryption tool.

In the future, I hope EFF evaluates file encryption tools. 

Image Source: Minilock.io

My go-to ones right now include the following in order of preference:

  1. AESCrypt.com – Free, open source and available for Mac, Windows, Linux and has an Android encryption tool.
  2. Minilock – From their web site: “miniLock uses your email and secret passphrase to generate a miniLock ID. miniLock IDs are small and easy to share online — anyone can use your ID to encrypt files to you, and you can encrypt files to friends using their miniLock IDs.” It is quite easy to use, even on a Chromebook.
  3. Secret Space Encryptor – This features a java app and works on Android.
While I still use GPG/PGP, I have to admit that safeguarding a private key can be difficult and I much prefer using one of the 3 tools above.

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12 Tools for Productivity on Your #Chromebook and #iPad (Updated 11/2014)

Have you ever asked yourself, “Can I do that with this device?” It’s a lot of fun. For example, the iPad has become a bit of a boring tool for me, not because it’s hard to do things with it, but rather, because I feel like I’ve mapped out workflows for what I commonly do. Once you map out what you do normally, you start to ask yourself, “What else can I do?”

Some of the common tasks–and the quick solutions I use on each–I expect to be able to do include the following (I’ve indicated in parentheses the cost of each, if it’s not free):

  1. Email
  1. iPad: CloudMagic app (free and fantastic for iOS and Android!)
  2. Chromebook: CloudMagic chrome app
  • Web surfing
    1. iPad: Chrome, iCab ($1.99), Puffin (Flash friendly sites) browsers
    2. Chromebook: Chrome
  • Curating content with ReadItLater’s Pocket, Evernote and Postach.io
    1. iPad: Evernote, ReadItLater’s Pocket, EverClip2 (read my blog entry), Flipboard (read more)
    2. Chromebook: Evernote and their WebClipper, Clearly, ReadItLater’s Pocket
  • Blogging
    1. iPad: Posts, Blogger
    2. Chromebook: Blogger web site
  • Reading and Creating ebooks
    1. iPad: 
    1. Create: Book Creator ($4.99)
    2. Read: Readdle’s Documents, or Open in Nook
  • Chromebook:
    1. Create: 
    1. Create GoogleDoc, save as HTML/PDF then Convert using 2ePub OR
    2. Create text in markdown using Writebox, then load it into dotEPUB‘s Create
  • Read: Readium (read this article on creating with iPad and reading on Chromebook)
  • Creating presentations
    1. iPad: Keynote (easy to embed videos), Haiku Deck
    2. Chromebook: GoogleSlides, Haiku Deck web
  • Encrypting emails and files with AES-256 encryption
    (Note: this is for light privacy…i wouldn’t trust it for serious stuff, whatever that is)
    1. iPad: Encipher.It, oPenGP ($4.99), MiniKeepass 
    2. Chromebook: MiniLock for file encryption, Encipher.It. Safeguard your logins and passwords with Keepass.info and BrowsePass Chrome add-on
  • Virtual Private Network
    (If you don’t have a VPN for your WiFi devices, then you need to watch this or read this)
    1. iPad and Chromebook: Private Internet Access ($40 a year)
  • FTP/SFTP files to and from a web server, phone or location
    1. iPad: Readdle’s Documents
    2. Chromebook: sFTP Client ($2.99)
  • Audio Recording & Editing
    1. iPad: 
    1. Recording: Voice Record Pro, AudioNote ($4.99), Evernote (free)
    2. Editing: Hokasai (Free but requires in-app purchases to do anything worthwhile)
  • Chromebook: 
    1. Recording: MicNote (can record audio played aloud from Chromebook speakers…like AudioNote that allows you to take notes while you record! Free version records 2 mins but Pro version for $4.99 records for 2 hours with unlimited notes/recordings)
    2. Editing: Twisted Wave, Audiee
  • Video Creation and Editing
    1. iPad: Explain Everything ($2.99 works for iOS and Android), Pinnacle Studio ($13)
    2. Chromebook: WeVideo
  • Screencasting
    1. iPad: Reflector for your Mac/Windows computer and Quicktime for computer
    2. Chromebook: Screencastify (makes HTML5/webm files), TechSmith SnagIt (need extension and app; makes MP4s) 
    It’s pretty amazing when you consider what can be done on a Chromebook and how easy and flexible it is. What fun to revisit my favorite apps, as well as discover some on Chromebook or for Chrome browser, that can be used.
    Of course, there are some places where the iPad wins…but in a classroom, you’re not likely to be in an either/or situation. 
    BTW, My MiniLock ID is 
    29NVByRvWs19dGHmUcav6riKBSTATuBsUTDtSaj47QNA5N

    “He who does not move does not notice his chains.” 

    Source: Rosa Luxemborg as cited by Glenn Greenwald


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    5 Tips to Help with #Heartbleed and Security

    If you’ve missed it, there’s been a ton of information shared about the OpenSSL vulnerability affecting every web site (so it seems) except a few such as Microsoft, Apple/iOS. Fortunately, most of the web sites are patching their OpenSSL and being fixed. But that leaves you with work to do, work that may take an hour or more to do.

    Here are 5 tips to help you get that work done and describe what I am doing.

    Image Source: Cult of Mac

    Some tips for you to follow on how to deal with Heartbleed include the following:

    1. Change passwords. Now that there’s been time for the dust to settle (e.g. patches to be made, vulnerabilities to be closed), I’m changing my passwords on all web sites that were vulnerable (list appears in Tip #4, but there could be more so apply Tip #3).
    2. Managing passwords. I manage my passwords using the open source Keepass/Keepassx/ KeepassDroid/Minikeepass on my Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices, respectively, and that’s made generating complex passwords and keeping track of them much easier. Others choose to use the web-based LastPass or 1Password.
    3. Check for Heartbleed vulnerability. Although LastPass has made this web site available to help you identify the status of the vulnerability patching at various sites, you can also load these two add-ons to your Chrome and Firefox browsers:
    1. Chrome Heartbleed Checker
    2. Firefox Heartbleed Checker
  • Turn on 2-factor authentication. “two-factor authentication is a simple feature that asks for more than just your password. It requires both “something you know” (like a password) and “something you have” (like your phone)” (Source: LifeHacker). If you have a smartphone, take advantage of 2-factor authentication on web sites where your life would be seriously disrupted if you lost access to its contents. 2-factor works on sites like Google, LastPass, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Evernote, Paypal, Steam,Microsoft, Yahoo (avoid them), Amazon, LinkedIn, and WordPress.
  • Encrypt everything you share online. If you use cloud storage, encrypt with AES-256 the information before you put it out there if it has sensitive and/or confidential information. You can use SSE for Windows/Mac/Linux/Android (no iOS, sorry), AESCrypt.com for Win/Mac,Linux/Android (no iOS). If on an iOS device, explore BoxCryptor.
  • These steps aren’t that hard to take. Of course, if you haven’t spent time on this before, they require you to do something you may not be accustomed to doing with technology–taking the time to learn something new and apply it. Don’t wait.

    Present virtually or attend this conference:

    On Saturday, September 27, 2014, the Science Teachers Association of Texas (Region 19) will host a one day science and technology conference called miniCAST 2014.

    Here is more info about it: http://minicastelpaso.wikispaces.com/Event+Homepage


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    BitTorrent Sync and Thunderbird Email Backups

    A few weekends ago, I realized that I didn’t have a backup of my Thunderbird email (over 5 gigs) anywhere except on one machine. This is a big deal because I have LOTS of email from multiple personal accounts (such as for my elderly mother, which I monitor on her behalf), as well as work accounts that I like to keep an encrypted backup of.

    The biggest challenge I faced included backing up the .Thunderbird folder. Although I’d tried saving my Thunderbird profile to an external USB flash drive (and eventually a hard drive), I just couldn’t get it to work. When I’d made backups of the .thunderbird folder on my Linux installations (Peppermint Four and Linux Mint 15 are working great!), I was always unable to restore them. There would be some configuration or something goofy (prob me) that couldn’t get it working again. Worse, I’d corrupt my Thunderbird profile, which meant loss of email and I’d have to restore from backup.

    Since I am running GNU/Linux on all 3 computers–although I obviously started with just two for testing purposes–it wasn’t difficult to load BitTorrentSync on all 3 machines and let BitTorrent Sync work it’s magic.

    What .thunderbird directory looks like

    This solution works best if you have machines that have similar operating systems. For example, you’d want to sync two linux machines, two Mac machines, or two Windows machines. If you sync’d from Mac to a Linux, while you’d get the data loaded or moved over, you’d have to adjust your profile settings to match:

    Windows:%APPDATA%\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default\.

    • %APPDATA% is shorthand for the C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\ folder (Windows 7/Vista) or theC:\Documents and Settings\\Application Data\ folder (Windows XP/2000), which depends on your Windows user account name.

    Mac OS X:~/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/xxxxxxxx.default/.

    • The tilde character (~) refers to the current user’s Home folder, so ~/Library is the /Macintosh HD/Users//Library folder.

    Linux:~/.thunderbird/xxxxxxxx.default/.

    To accomplish the magic with your own setup, I encourage you to follow these steps:

    1) Install BitTorrent Sync on computers with the same operating system. You can follow the instructions on the BitTorrent Sync web site.

    2) Pick the computer that you use the most, that you have Mozilla Thunderbird on, and then…

    3) Start BitTorrent Sync and add the Thunderbird Profile folder for your operating system.

    4) Get the “secret” for that folder and use it when adding new folders on your other computers you want to sync with.

    5) Step back and watch it in action! You can monitor progress on any of the computers with BitTorrent Sync installed by opening a web browser and going to http://localhost:8888

    For Fun

    1. While I haven’t tried it, if you are an avid Mail app user on Macintosh, you might be able to do the same thing between two Macs. 
    2. Make a home directory share where all networked computers in your home or office save to a common drive via BTSync. That way, all your individual computers’ data would be saved to a machine that is backing up that data for you to removable storage.

    Thanks to BitTorrent Sync, and to Mozilla Thunderbird for two free open source alternatives to keeping email OUT of the cloud.

    Be sure to read this article on Sync Hacks when it appears!


    Check out Miguel’s Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com


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    Encryption Fun for SAT on Peppermint Four @peppermintos

    KGPG – http://www.kde.org/applications/utilities/kgpg/


    “Miguel,” shared a secretary, “We need to be able to get copies of SAT scores electronically but it requires PGP encryption. Can we do that?” The reason she was asking was because of this web page:

    SAT Internet Score Delivery provides secure and easy transmission of SAT scoresto your institution. It is the fastest delivery method for receiving student records and eliminates the need for paper or CD-ROM delivery…With Internet Score Delivery, electronic score data:

    • Can be downloaded to any computer that has the appropriate security encryption software (PGP®)

    One of the points that is made on the web page is:

    • If you don’t already have the necessary PGP encryption software installed, you need to purchase it from Symantec Corporation for approximately $100 to $200…PGP encryption software version 2.6.2 or higher that can generate a 1024-byte RSA key—we recommend the desktop package that includes PGP Perpetual License with software insurance

    Curious, huh? $100-$200 for the software. But if you have access to free open source tools, you can eliminate the cost. Consider the following information from Symantec:

    The encryption solutions for email allow simple, seamless integration with partners’ existing stadards-based email encryption solutions such as OpenPGP and S/MIME.

    OpenPGP…that makes it easy to use free, open source tools like the following to get the job done:

    1. On Mac, GPGTools.
    2. On Windows, Gpg4win (includes a nice tutorial)
    3. On GNU/Linux, kgpg (my preference for a GUI enabled gpg)

    Since I run Peppermint Four Linux OS on all my machines, I decided to install kgpg with the command:

    sudo apt-get install kgpg

    Approximately 289 megs later, I was ready to go. I created a private/public encryption key using my project email address, and that was it. I suspect that this key will work with the Collegeboard folks, but…I won’t get a chance to try it due to the 28 day time limit (data get’s purged after that).

    Has anyone out there actually used OpenPGP in combination with Collegeboard SAT scores encrypted download?


    Check out Miguel’s Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com


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    Exploring Cloud Storage Solutions – @bittorrentsync

    Earlier this week, I embarked on a short journey to discover–Will BitTorrent Sync enable me to drop Dropbox and other cloud services? The answer is, “Yes, but I won’t be cancelling my account.”

    Update 05/28/2014 – TrueCrypt is now defunct

    Although I have found BitTorrent Sync invaluable on my home network, using it in a work setting (unless I have bittorrent ports unblocked, which I’m not prepared to do for this experiment) has been all but impossible. That’s a shame because anything that enables one to transfer large videos or files as quickly as I’ve found BitTorrent Sync to do so, well, that’s just invaluable.

    That failure at work aside–and it’s a failure that makes BTSync unusable for many folks in K-12 education–I still heartily endorse the use of BTSync on the open web. I also wish there was a bit more transparency about the encryption protocols used.  This comment about the closed nature of BitTorrent Sync leaves me a bit nervous:

    The whole point of P2P is to be decentralized as opposed to proprietary cloud sync solutions. Now at least with proprietary cloud sync solutions I can see that my files are being sent directly to Dropbox (Amazon cloud storage), Google Drive… When it’s P2P I can’t do that. So then to be able to build trust into SyncApp we would need to be able to review the code. Unless of course people are expected to always use TrueCrypt container files when using SyncApp to synchronize their sensitive data. (Source: Rippelhans comment)

    There are a variety of solutions that work to solve the problem of storage. For example, here are a few that I’m aware of:

    1. BitTorrent Sync – works great across platforms (except iOS for which it isn’t available) and in network environments that block bit torrent.
    2. OwnCloud – a great solution that works well, is open source, and you can host on your own server. Very similar to Dropbox. 
    3. OneHub – encrypted dropbox type solution that is available at cost.

    Of these, probably OwnCloud is probably the best solution but requires your own server or a server to work with.

    If you’re using Google DriveDropbox.com,  Box.net, or the many other cloud storage solutions, you should encrypt your data before it’s put in the cloud. You can use many solutions, whether it’s individual file encryption tools like ParanoiaWork’s SSI File Encryptor,  AESCrypt.com,7zip compression utilities, or Truecrypt.org and/or Boxcryptor.com

    What are your thoughts?


    Check out Miguel’s Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com


    Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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