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Encryption Blog

NetShare and the Single User

Created: 24 May 2010 • Updated: 05 Nov 2012
Brian Tokuyoshi's picture
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PGP NetShare provides transparent encryption for files in designated folders.  Transparent encryption means that the user doesn’t have to do anything to protect the file other than unlock their private key when they first log into Windows. There’s no right-clicking files to bring up the context menu, and no archive passwords to remember. I simply double click on files that I want to work on, and it’s automatically decrypted.  When I save a file, it’s automatically encrypted. I can still copy & paste the files in the same manner that I normally follow, without any changes to my work process.

Typically, an organization uses PGP NetShare for collaboration, enabling an organization to set up workgroups with network shared folders that remain safe from snooping even if accessed by a curious system administrator or copied to a backup tape.

However, what’s not so widely known is that there are lots of uses for PGP NetShare even when you’re not doing any collaboration.  It’s transparency and ease of use that makes NetShare convenient for even the single user. I’ll illustrate a couple of scenarios.

The first scenario is to use a network drive as a virtually private hard drive. For instance, I have a relatively small hard drive on my laptop, and I keep the large, bulky work files like artwork and scans on a network drive. It’s useful for me because I don’t have to take care of doing any backups for files on the network drive because the system administrator does it for me. But what about keeping the data protected?

I use PGP NetShare to encrypt the data, even though this folder isn’t used for any collaboration. I can take advantage of having a large network drive without any of the headaches of managing the files or protecting the data. The blue lock on top of the drive icon shows that NetShare is operating, and I don’t have to worry about anyone else inappropriately accessing my data.

A second non-collaborative use for NetShare is to add encryption functions to applications that don’t have encryption capabilities. For instance, SyncBack Freeware from 2BrightSparks is a fantastic backup solution, but it doesn’t have the ability to create an encrypted backup. That’s not a problem when I’m using NetShare. I simply create a NetShare folder (in my case, I chose to use a folder mounted on my network drive), and set that as the destination in SyncBack. When I run my backups, the files are automatically encrypted, thus ensuring that my backup data stays safe.

An additional benefit for using NetShare to handle my encryption is that I now have a consistent method for accessing and recovering the data, even though I use different programs to create the data in the first place. In the past, I would have to set a passphrase with each application that created the file, such as using a passphrase for creating a backup, set a passphrase when saving my office documents, and choosing a passphrase for an encrypted zip. By the time I actually use the data, I may have forgotten the passphrase, which leads to data loss of the information that I was trying to protect in the first place. I remember one time in the past when I needed to access an encrypted spreadsheet that contained important pricing details, and forgot the passphrase which meant I had to recreate the document from scratch.

With PGP NetShare, whether it’s accessing data from my shared drive, or restoring a file from a backup, I simply use the file the way I normally would. If I need to work on it, I double click the file and it opens without any prompts for passphrases. If I need to move it, I just drag and drop it and NetShare takes care of the encryption.

It’s this aspect of PGP NetShare, the transparent encryption, that makes data protection effortless and useful for even the single user. And ultimately, by making it easier on the user, it’s more likely that users can protected more data and avoid the accidents and attacks that lead to data loss.