We all have secrets. Some secrets we can keep in our heads. Other secrets need to be written somewhere mostly because there's just too much information to memorize. So where can we keep these secrets safe from prying eyes? Most of us use our computers to keep track of and store all our information, and our secrets are no exception.

So what kind of secrets do we keep on our computers? Passwords are probably the most common type of secret we keep. Our passwords are the keys to the virtual locks that secure the doorways to our precious information. Other secrets typically are banking information, documents we've written, videos and pictures we've taken, the list goes on and on. And we store most if not all of it on our computers with little or no thought as to how vulnerable all of these secrets really are.

So who might look at all of your secret files? For the most part, it's usually not some super cyber-hacker that stumbles across something you really don't want anyone to see. Typically it's a co-worker or a family member who wants to use your PC to go online or type a letter. And oh my goodness, what's this document titled "Phone numbers" or "My passwords" or "XXX?" Let me just take a peek at this and see what's in here. And then your private life as you know it is pretty much over.

So now that you know your secret stuff is in jeopardy of being detected, how can you make it safe? Check out a free little utility called SafeHouse Explorer from PC Dynamics. Running SafeHouse Explorer lets you create a virtual vault that looks pretty much like a Windows Explorer window. Any files you drag into the vault will become encrypted and invisible to the Windows desktop. As you drag a file or group of files into the SafeHouse Explorer vault, you simply right click and select the Secure Move option. Doing so will copy the files into the vault and then delete the corresponding files from the Windows desktop. The deletion is not a simple one as it's fairly easy to resurrect a typical Windows deletion. SafeHouse Explorer permanently destroys those files by overwriting them with random data that insures those files on the desktop can never be retrieved again.

After you move the secret files you want to secure into the vault, you just close it and go on about your business. A small vault icon will remain on your desktop. It is the only way you can access the files within. There is nothing else on the desktop to see as those secured files are totally invisible to the Windows desktop. To access the files within, you double click the vault and type in your password.

SafeHouse Explorer even helps you to select a secure password. PC Dynamics has included just about every known typical password and combines them with a set of rules. As you create a password a thermometer display glows red as you type and moves into a green area as your password becomes something that's considered to be stronger and most secure.

You can create an unlimited number of vaults and each vault can be as large as 2 terabytes, limited only by the capacity of your hard drive. Vaults can even be made on memory sticks, CD and DVD discs. An option to make a vault self extracting is handy when you wish to email sensitive data to someone without requiring them to have a copy of SafeHouse Explorer on their computer.

While SafeHouse Explorer is a free product, PC Dynamics has two other SafeHouse versions, the Personal Edition ($29.99) and the Professional Edition ($59.99). Each version adds additional features and abilities which you can check out at the SafeHouse Explorer website. So know you know how to make your secret files safe. But don't tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me.

www.safehousesoftware.com

ABOUT THE WRITER

Craig Crossman is a national newspaper columnist writing about computers and technology. He also hosts daily national computer radio talk show Computer America, heard on the Business TalkRadio Network and the Lifestyle TalkRadio Network - Monday through Friday, 10 p.m.-midnight ET. For more information, visit his web site at www.computeramerica.com.)

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