With all the snoops trying to get their hands on, well, every bit of information they can, encrypting sensitive content makes perfect sense. But there are various kinds of encryption you can use to protect yourself and your data, each with its pros and cons.
In this article, we will look at two types of encryption:
- Disk encryption – The encryption of a Disk drive (or another storage device). To read any data on the disk, you need to know a password or a secret key.
- Document encryption – The encryption of a complete document (or another file). To read the document, you need to know a password or a secret key.
We’ll take a quick look at how each type of encryption works, and talk about when you would want to use each type.
How To Encrypt Files With Disk Encryption?
Disk encryption works by encrypting part or all of a disk drive or other storage device. When you encrypt the entire disk, it is known as Full Disk Encryption (FDE). When only parts of the disk are encrypted, you have Encrypted Partitions on the disk.
In a system using FDE, all the data on the disk is encrypted. When a user starts the system, they enter the encryption key, and the encryption software uses the key to encrypt/decrypt data on the fly.
Whenever data is read from the disk, it is decrypted before being used. Likewise, whenever data is written to disk, it is encrypted. Since the data on the disk is always encrypted, it is always inaccessible to anyone without the proper key, even if they physically take possession of the disk. And since the entire disk is encrypted, there is no way that sensitive data can find its way to an unencrypted file on the disk.
Encrypted Partition Basics
In a system using Encrypted Partitions, data automatically gets encrypted/decrypted only when it is stored on an Encrypted Partition. The user must take care to store documents and other files in the proper partitions.
The necessity to decide whether or not each file belongs on an Encrypted Partition means there is a chance that the user will make a mistake and leave sensitive data exposed. It is also possible for data stored in an Encrypted Partition to simultaneously appear in unencrypted form in a cache or swap file elsewhere on the disk.
Should I Encrypt My Disks?
In most cases, the answer is yes. You should encrypt your disks using FDE. It provides a basic level of protection with little or no performance impact once the disk is encrypted. Since the encryption is automatically applied to everything on the disk, you can’t forget to encrypt something, and the encrypted data can’t appear in an unencrypted file on the disk.
However, FDE does have some weaknesses. Perhaps most important, if the key is lost, the entire disk becomes unreadable. This makes the loss of the key much more damaging than when each document is encrypted individually with its own key. Some sort of key management system is almost mandatory to avoid eventual data loss.
Another weakness is that the system is vulnerable to hostile software while it is running. Reading and writing the encrypted disk is transparent to software once the disk is unlocked.
Finally, remember that FDE only protects files while they are stored on the encrypted disk. Sending a document to another computer by email, or even to an unencrypted disk on the same computer will leave the document unencrypted at its destination.
How To Encrypt Individual Files With Document Encryption
Document encryption (more properly file-level encryption) involves encrypting each document before it is saved. Ideally, every file will be encrypted with a unique key. This has several advantages over FDE or Encrypted Partitions.
Document encryption gives you fine control over who has access to which documents. Users only have access to the specific documents for which they have a key. On a system using FDE or Encrypted Partitions, a user with access to the disk or partition has access to every file on that disk or partition.
Encrypted documents remain encrypted when you email them or copy them to another disk. Only someone with the correct key can read an encrypted document, regardless of where it is located.
But the strength of document encryption is also a weakness. Anyone who needs to decrypt the document needs a copy of the key. Within an organization, distributing keys shouldn’t be a problem. Large companies and many small ones have Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Systems, Digital Asset Management Systems, or other tools that handle encryption and internal key distribution transparently.
But sending encrypted documents to external destinations can create a strange situation. While an encrypted document can be sent without worries, the key for decrypting it must be sent securely. Encrypting the key using PGP or some other Public-Key encryption system and the related Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to send the key to the destination is one approach.
When Should I Encrypt My Documents And Other Files?
This is a hard one to answer. If you are in a corporate environment, this is all probably handled for you, or there are policies in place to tell you what to do.
On a personal level, you should ask yourself questions like these:
- How good is my current network security?
- How valuable is my data to outsiders?
- How sensitive is the information in any particular document?
- Is FDE sufficient, or do I need to take it further?
- Will I be storing any sensitive documents online, sending them through email or social media, or storing them in the cloud?
While you will need to figure out an approach that is right for you, we have some general suggestions:
- If a document contains sensitive information, and it will be leaving your computer or network, encrypt it.
- If it is so sensitive that it could impact your career, your marriage, or your bank balance, encrypt it.
- If you have reason to believe that you are being specifically targeted by someone or some government agency, encrypt it.
- If it contains random information of little value or information that is already out on social media, you probably don’t need to bother encrypting it.
Beyond those suggestions, figuring out the right balance is up to you.
Increasing Your Privacy with a VPN or Tor
There is one last thing to consider before you decide on your document encryption policies. NSA documents released by Edward Snowden show that they consider anything that is encrypted to be suspicious. They can keep copies of any encrypted document as long as they like.
This reasonably raises the concern that sending an encrypted document somewhere simply paints a target on your back for the spies. While we aren’t sure whether that is true or not, there is something you can do to reduce your risks: use a VPN or Tor when sending encrypted documents anywhere.
While neither type of tool provides perfect protection, both VPNs and Tor encrypt all data passing to and from your computer. Because anyone monitoring the connection between your computer and the Internet can see only encrypted data passing back and forth, they have no way to tell you are transmitting encrypted documents as well. NordVPN is worth looking into, should you decide to start using a VPN.
Should I use disk and document encryption together?
Here is a quick summary of the main strengths and weaknesses of disk encryption (FDE) and document encryption:
|Protects all data stored on a disk automatically||Yes||No|
|Protects data that leaves your computer or network||No||Yes|
|Result if key lost||Entire disk inaccessible||Specific document inaccessible|
|Vulnerable if an attacker has access to the computer while it is running||Yes||It depends on how document keys are distributed or managed.|
Computer security experts recommend using disk encryption and document encryption together. By using FDE and document encryption together, you are creating a defense in depth. Using both types of encryption takes advantage of the strengths of each approach while minimizing some of their weaknesses.
An attacker would need to get past your disk encryption to even see that you have an encrypted document on the disk. Then the attacker would have to get past the document encryption to actually read any sensitive data.
Bad guys can’t cash out their loot in 2016 Bitfinex hack
Assets stolen from Bitfinex crypto exchange in a hacking incident back in 2016 will take over a century to be cashed out, blockchain intelligence firm Elliptic said in its latest report.
On Thursday, the company published a statement about the infamous hack that resulted in Bitfinex losing 120,000 bitcoin (valued today at around $7 billion). It detailed nearly 80% of the illegally obtained funds are still in the hacker(s) wallet.
The remaining 21% have been moved around by the malicious cyber attackers that have only managed to launder 4% of their total haul, which is approximately $270 million.
A roadblock for the attackers
Elliptic pointed out that the reason for their thesis is the evolution of crypto tracking tools, regulations, and law enforcement methodologies that make stolen or ill-gotten digital assets very challenging to cash out today.
The intelligence company explained that the hackers used “peel-chains” to exchange the stolen funds. In this method, crypto tokens are moved around numerous times, moving fast from wallet to wallet, and only a small amount of the bitcoin is “peeled off to their actual destination along the way.”
Back then, it was extremely hard to track crypto-assets laundered using this method. But today, the emergence of automatic tracing systems capable of determining the ultimate source or funds in an address makes the job a lot easier for the authorities.
The hacker after the cyber attack
After the successful attack on Bitfinex in 2016, the laundering process started in 2017 through the largest darknet market that time – Alphabay. Later that year, it was shut down by law enforcement, prompting the move to Hydra – the biggest illegal marketplace today.
Cryptoslate cited part of the report from Elliptic, stating, “After a hiatus in 2019, the launderers returned to Hydra in 2020 and are currently depositing $3 million of the stolen bitcoin every month.”
According to the report, to date, there is now approximately $72 million worth of the stolen cryptocurrency sent to Hydra.
Image courtesy of Cointelegraph News/YouTube
Three reasons why Cardano is going on this price trajectory
Rising trade volume across spot and derivatives exchanges have supported Cardano’s ongoing price rally over the past few weeks and months. The altcoin, at the time of writing, was trading at the $2.32-level, with the crypto gaining by 20% in 24 hours to touch one ATH after the other. The aforementioned hike in price and trade volume were evidenced by the increase in market capitalization as well.
Thanks to the aforementioned factors, Cardano is now ranked third among the market’s top-10 altcoins, based on data from CoinMarketCap.
What’s more, based on the attached chart, currently there is more ADA staked than in the past 30 days. In fact, it is at nearly half a million. With 100% of its HODLers profitable at the press time price level, ADA’s rally is likely to be a long one, especially with the altcoin’s staking rewards data offering a similar conclusion. With a relatively high percentage of ADA staked, a direct relationship has emerged between staked ADA and ADA’s price.
While the current on-chain sentiment is slightly bearish, the net network growth stood at a positive 5%. Further, while there has been a slow drop in large transactions, that could mean that more retail traders are buying ADA v. HODLers and institutions. Unless trade volume drops and cascading sell-offs occur, the price is likely to hold at its current price level.
In the case of Cardano, the concentration by large HODLers has remained largely below 30% and this is key to its ongoing rally. Top memecoins and altcoins that are rallying like DOGE, LINK, BNB, and ETH, among others, have a high concentration by large traders. This is essential to supporting the price at its key levels.
$80 billion worth of large transactions have transpired over the past week and the inflows are anticipated to increase even more. Less than 15% HODLers have held ADA for over 12 months, despite YTD gains of over 500%. And, ADA’s HODLers are lower in numbers than expected. Ergo, the short-term ROI could be the key reason for the short HODLing duration.
Based on data from Messari, the ROI over the past week was nearly 40%.
In the past year, the ROI was over 700%. This is a relatively high gain for HODLers, despite several dips.
ADA’s latest developments and the increasing demand in the second phase of the altseason make it one of the hottest altcoins to buy and HODL. In fact, one can argue that ADA continues to remain undervalued at the press time price level.
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Data shows the ‘Bitcoin price drops ahead of CME expiries’ claim is a myth
Historically, activity surrounding the Bitcoin (BTC) monthly futures and options expiry has been blamed for weakening bullish momentum. A few studies from 2019 found a 2.3% average drop in BTC price 40 hours before the CME futures settlement date.
However, as Cointelegraph reported in June 2020, the effect faded away. While 2020 seems to have rejected the potential negative impact of CME expiries, so far, the current year appears to validate the theory. Bitcoin’s price has been suppressed ahead of futures and options expiry in the first three months of 2021.
Some investors and traders have pointed out that Bitcoin’s incredible rally after the recent futures and options expiry dates has become a trend.
$BTC options expiry in about 8 hours…
Last Friday of every month has been a pretty good entry point for past 8 months …
Past 3 months price has been hammered in the hours / days leading up to expiry
Observation not advice. Let’s see if the pattern holds. pic.twitter.com/3CJqI6m6jl
— 阿龍 (@KnutsonJesse) April 23, 2021
BTC has effectively rallied in the days following the expiry, but expanding this analysis uncovers a less-than-satisfactory trend.
Three consecutive events don’t prove a trend
The past 13 months have been nothing short of spectacular for Bitcoin, as the cryptocurrency posted 788% gains. August 2020 turned out to be the worst month, as BTC presented a 7.5% negative performance. Thus, choosing random starting points within the month will likely show a similar positive trend.
For example, if one uses the “last quarter” moon phase as a proxy, the odds that a rally takes place after each event are very high.
As depicted above, indeed, Bitcoin rallied after five out of the last six instances. The only conclusion might be that positive trends are the norm rather than the exception during bull runs.
Although there might be some explanation to the reason behind Bitcoin’s end-of-the-month underperformance, these are only hypotheses.
While market makers and arbitrage desks could benefit from suppressing the price after a rally, other forces, including leverage futures longs and call option holders, would balance that out.
Bitcoin price did not drop in three of the last seven expiries
Therefore, it makes sense to analyze the potential price suppression ahead of the expiry instead of looking for explanations for a rally during a bull market.
Both October and December 2020 expiries failed to present any negative pressure ahead of such dates. Meanwhile, the 12% positive performance on the five days that preceded the most recent April 30 expiry also puts a big question mark on how meaningful the CME event really is.
Considering there hasn’t been a price decrease ahead of monthly futures and options expiries in three of the last seven instances, this evidence should put a nail in the coffin of the unfounded myth.
As mentioned earlier, trying to develop theories on why sellers acted more aggressively on specific dates is unlikely to yield results.
As shown above, Bitcoin’s price failed to underperform in three out of the last seven expiries. A 57% success rate should not define a trend when a positive performance after a specific date has been proven common during a bull run.
The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.
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