Freeware Files: 5 Portable Apps to Stick on Your Security-Themed USB Key!

TheMurph

Security rivals thermal paste as the most important thing you have to keep in mind when building or using a system. Every bit of software on your PC should be updated; every external access point into your digital life, closed.  There's no reason why you should be handing over the keys to the castle to random Internet strangers.  Powerful virus protection, a strong firewall, and a bit of common sense -- among other tricks -- will go far to preserve your fortress of a system.

Now that's all well and good for the desktop in your living room, but what about third-party machines?  We've all had to jump on a system over which we've had no control--no observance or administrative rights to ensure that every bit of the operating system checked out to ideal security standards.  You can always head over the falls in a barrel and type your passwords and login credentials blindly, with no foresight or worries that you're inputting valuable information on a potentially infected machine.  That, or you can do what I'd do: Make sure that your every keystroke and action is somehow safeguarded through the use of portable applications that you can carry on a storage device of your choice (cough USB key cough).

And that's exactly what I'll be exploring in this week's Freeware Files: Five awesome portable apps that you can carry with you to increase your security presence on a PC that isn't yours.  These aren't panaceas--you'll still want to be as critical and as cautious as you would previously.  However, they're a step in the right direction toward (hopefully) a data-leak-free lifestyle.

Active Kill Disk -- Hard Drive Eraser

In a world of small arms, I'll start with the security nuke: If you need to wipe a drive that's too far beyond saving due to malware, virus infections, or some other critical issue, you'll want to slap a copy of Active Kill Disk on your USB key post-haste.  Provided you're rocking a bootable USB key, you can use this app to fire up a DOS-based destruction tool for unruly digital files.  The free version of the app only allows you to erase your drive using the one-pass zero method.  Stronger techniques will require you to pony up a price for the full version of the app.  However, unless you're trying to avoid a government inquiry or something, this should be all you need for bringing your beleaguered hard drive back in line--and making sure that your key information is gone for good!

Download it here !

FreeOTFE

Similar to the popular privacy app TrueCrypt, FreeOTFE allows you to create and access encrypted volumes of information on a system--which, naturally, will appear as just a stream of junk for anyone lacking the proper authorization credentials.  The beauty of FreeOTFE is that, unlike TrueCrypt, you don't actually have to install an application in order to gain access to this powerful protection.  You don't even need administrator rights for the encryption to work!  While this app might not make the most sense if you're frequently jet-setting between systems, it's an ideal solution for building additional privacy into something like your work system.

Download it here !

PortableTor

Need a quick way to access Web sites while reducing your ability to be tracked?  PortableTor is the easy solution for gaining access to a large network of proxy servers (really, other people) that bounce your traffic requests around before pointing them toward the final destination you seek.  The only problem with the Tor solution is that, by nature, traffic exiting the Tor network isn't going to be encrypted.  That would theoretically allow someone serving as an exit node for Tor to eavesdrop on what gets passed out between that machine and said destinations.  Still, for an easy-to-use privacy solution, PortableTor sure beats surfing the Internet vanilla-style.

Download it here !

PuTTY Portable

Right on the heels of PortableTor comes PuTTY Portable.  This app doesn't allow you to join an encrypted network of proxies.  Rather, you can use PuTTY to fire up an encrypted SSH connection -- or tunnel -- to your desktop computer that's presumably located in a safer surfing location than wherever you happen to be.  Once this connection is live, you can use this protected gateway to do your normal network routines like browsing around, checking email, et cetera.  Others won't be able to decrypt the information you're sending out and you won't be forced to use an unsecure network to conduct your important business!

Download it here !

NetWrix USB Blocker

If you're on the flip-side of the equation and are looking for ways to keep your system free from the USB-based applications others are carrying around, then this app is a perfect way to lock down your system from unauthorized, portable access.  NetWrix USB Blocker helps you turn off all (or a select number) of your USB ports, which will prevent anyone from simply walking up, slapping in a USB key, and ripping out your saved passwords in a single setting.  The app requires the use of Microsoft's Group Policy Management, so make sure that's installed on the system of choice before you go to run NetWrix USB Blocker.  After that, your system will be safe from unwanted flash drives!

Download it here !

David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. Befriend him on Twitter, especially if you have an awesome app or game you're dying to recommend!

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