Sunday, August 27, 2006

Computers - Chicago Tribune - Hiding stuff in plain sight

Published in the Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Here's a neat trick for hiding computer programs in plain sight


Q. I am an elementary school teacher and often take my laptop to school, where it is occasionally used by my students.

I have files on it that I do not want them to have access to. Isn't there a way to make some files inaccessible by users other than myself? I have set up user accounts, but, frankly, I prefer to be signed in on my account when I am using my computer.

There is always the chance I will be occupied doing something when a student or teacher sits down to check something on my computer.

A. There are a great many ways to encrypt files so that they can be opened only by somebody who knows the password, so I'll tell you about one of the least costly encryption programs. I'll also suggest a way to solve your particular problem, Mr. L., using mere strategy, instead of powerful software.

Cypherix, based in Mumbai, India, gives away a simplified version of its widely used Cryptainer software for businesses as an advertising gimmick. The software is quite good for home use and is very easy to acquire at

Once set up, Cryptainer creates a distinctive triangular icon anywhere you want on the computer. You set it up with a password of eight to 100 characters, and when you drag files into the special folder, they are encrypted with 128-bit technology, which may be cracked by the Pentagon's supercomputers in a month or two but ought to be rock solid against elementary school pupils.

Now my hide-in-plain sight solution: I keep the prying eyes away simply by creating a folder named in Windows-like gibberish and tucking it away on the C: drive.

To do that, you can click on My Computer and then open the C: icon and then right-click and select New from the pop-up menu. Now select Folder and call it something like "0E4569215." When you close that folder, it will be as good as invisible to others yet easy for you to find.

Link to online story.

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.