Concerned about Dropbox security issues? How about Google Drive’s privacy? We’re big fans of cloud storage here at Cloudwards.net, but we’d be wrong to tell you concerns over government spying, cybercrime and targeted marketing are tinfoil-hat notions. While cloud storage has too many benefits to devolve to the floppy-disk days, blind trust usually comes back to bite you in the butt. Our solution: take control of your own privacy.
There are many ways to do that, which we outline on our online privacy guide. One of the smartest steps you can take is to simply encrypt your files before sending them to the cloud, and one of the best tools to help you do that is Boxcryptor.
Boxcryptor works with many of the new cloud storage services to give you the same confidence in file security as using super-secure solutions like Sync.com and Tresorit. That confidence comes from private, end-to-end encryption — commonly known as zero-knowledge encryption.
During this Boxcryptor review, we’ll run down the features, costs and user experience to help you determine if this tool is the best way for you to keep your content safe in the cloud. If you’re still not sure about signing up afterward, set up a free account first to test it yourself. If you need a service to pair with it, we also have an online storage pricing comparison tool for filtering options.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Private, end-to-end encryption
- Over 20 supported cloud services
- WebDav support for more options
- Free version
- Inexpensive subscriptions
- Secure file sharing
- Remove device disconnects
- No password reset
While there are a few exceptions, including Amazon Drive (read our Amazon Drive review), most cloud storage services encrypt files at-rest on their servers. However, most of those services also manage the keys used to encrypt files, too.
That means that your cloud storage provider could decrypt those files, whether to scan for pirated content or gather marketing data. It also means plain-text copies of your files could be given to the government, such as for mass surveillance programs like PRISM. Plus, a rogue employee or hacker might be able to gain access to your cloud storage account, resulting in loss of intellectual property, identity theft or the spread of your private pictures across the internet.
Boxcryptor is designed to prevent these scenarios from happening by encrypting your files before they’re sent to the cloud. It provides private, end-to-end encryption, letting you use services like Dropbox and Google Drive with the same certainty of privacy that you get with the best zero-knowledge cloud storage providers.
Boxcryptor currently supports encryption for more than 20 different cloud services out of the box, plus every cloud provider that supports WebDAV. Some examples of supported services are in the table, below.
|Dropbox||Google Drive||OneDrive||Egnyte Connect|
|Amazon Drive||Amazon S3||SpiderOak ONE||Box|
|iCloud Drive||Strato HiDrive||SugarSync||hubiC|
Boxcryptor can also be used to encrypt files being sent to local storage, like a NAS device, and supports ownCloud for those that want to build a personal cloud storage solution. Boxcryptor desktop clients are available for Windows and MacOS, while smartphone apps are available for Android and iOS. Linux isn’t supported. If you’re looking for secure cloud storage for Linux, we recommend skipping Dropbox and using pCloud, instead (read our pCloud review).
All file types are supported and encrypted individually and on the fly, meaning there’s no need for bulk decryption later. We’ll walk you through the encryption process later in this review.
For collaboration, Boxcryptor plans for businesses to have some group management capabilities that will let you grant access to encrypted files to your colleagues. Both personal and business users can also share files with individuals based on their email address, so long as those individuals are Boxcryptor subscribers.
Boxcryptor comes integrated with a second product made by the same development team called Whisply that lets you share files with non-Boxcryptor users. Whisply creates links to files that can be distributed to others for browser access to files. Key Whisply features include passwords for links, expiry time limits and a one-time download toggle.
There are a few disadvantages to using Boxcryptor versus just going with a zero-knowledge cloud storage service like Cloudwards.net favorite Sync.com. The biggest is that any remote access to files will require you to download Boxcryptor on the device you’re using, which itself might present a security issue. Overall, though, we’re quite impressed with the Boxcryptor feature set, especially for the cost of service, which we’ll be breaking down next.
There are three different types of paid subscriptions for Boxcryptor: one for personal use (Boxcryptor Personal) and two for business use (Boxcryptor Business and Boxcryptor Company). All three require at least one-year subscription. If you’re looking for a free encryption option, Boxcryptor has that, too.
|Cost (annual subscription):||$0||$48||$96||$10 per user|
|Allowed Cloud Providers:||1||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Note:||No file name encryption||Requires at least five licenses. Has a cheaper three-year subscription option.|
Two big limitations of Boxcryptor Free are that it can only be used for one cloud provider and two devices. Paid Boxcryptor plans, meanwhile, can be used to encrypt files for unlimited cloud providers and unlimited devices.
Even if you only have one cloud provider and one device, there’s another limitation that’s pretty big in our book, which is that Boxcryptor Free doesn’t encrypt filenames. Filenames can reveal quite a bit about a person or business, making this a good reason to consider paying for service.
Luckily, the cost for Boxcryptor Personal is more than reasonable. By comparison, the zero-knowledge add-on for pCloud costs exactly the same amount on a per year basis ($48). Then again, Sync.com gives you zero-knowledge encryption for free, which is one of the reasons it ranks as one of the best deals in cloud storage.
The price for Boxcryptor Business is twice as much, but group management features and high priority support make it worth the expense. For businesses with more than five employees, Boxcryptor Company offers even more features, including master keys, customizable policies and auditing tools. The cost per user is $10 on a one-year subscription and $8 on a three-year subscription.
Ease of Use
Once you’ve picked a plan and signed up for service, the next step is to download the Boxcryptor client for your computer. Installation should only take a minute, after which you’ll need to login with the credentials you created during signup.
Installation creates a special drive called “Boxcryptor” in your file system. In the case of our test computer, it was given the drive letter “X,” but you can set it to whatever you want.
A Boxcryptor taskbar icon also gets installed. You’ll need to use this to manage important settings, like attaching cloud services to Boxcryptor so that files sent to them can be encrypted.
Boxcryptor helps you out by automatically detecting supported services, which you’ll find under the “locations” tab. If a service isn’t listed, you can manually add it so long as it supports WebDAV.
Adding or removing a cloud storage service is as simple as clicking the checkbox beside its name. Once added, it’ll appear as a location in your Boxcryptor drive folder.
After a cloud service is picked as a Boxcryptor location, synced files don’t get automatically encrypted. From within the Boxcryptor drive, you’ll need to right-click on a file and select “Boxcryptor > encrypt.”
To save time, encryptions can be done at the folder level, too. Once you choose to encrypt files, Boxcryptor will begin the process and let you know of any issues along the way. Once a file or folder is successfully encrypted, it will be overlayed by a padlock icon so that you can quickly tell which content is protected and which isn’t.
While the mechanics aren’t difficult, encrypting files with Boxcryptor can be a task that’s easy to sleep on if you’ve got other priorities on your mind. To make life easy, we suggest simply creating a new folder under your cloud storage location in Boxcryptor. The app will automatically ask you if you want to encrypt it.
Then, place any files you want encrypted inside of it. This approach will help keep things sorted in your head and make encryption as easy as dragging a file into your encryption folder.
This approach also helps with managing browser-based access and collaborations. When you encrypt a file with Boxcryptor, it can no longer be edited or even previewed in your cloud storage web GUI. For example, have a look at the image of the word file we encrypted below.
This means you lose the ability to work with tools like Office Online. Creating a special encrypted folder that you can drop files and subfolders into and quickly remove them from later, when you want to work on something, will make working with Boxcryptor much simpler.
Files encrypted with Boxcryptor are encrypted end-to-end. That means they’re encrypted before leaving your machine, and don’t get decrypted again until you access them. On top of that, Boxcryptor doesn’t know or store your password.
That makes it a zero-knowledge service, as mentioned earlier. Like any zero-knowledge service, the upside is better privacy, while the downside is that if you forget your password, Boxcryptor can’t reset it for you. That means you’ll lose access to your files. The only thing the company can do is reset your account entirely, which will cause you to lose access to any encrypted files.
For encryption, Boxcryptor uses a combination 256-bit AES and RSA. You can learn more about both in our cloud security primer. In a nutshell, though, these are the protocols used to scramble files by military organizations, financial institutions and the most secure cloud storage services.
It’s estimated it’d take a supercomputer billions of years to crack AES, so your files should be safe from man-in-the-middle attacks and other sorts of cybercrime. Still, you may want to take the additional precaution of using a VPN if on a public WiFi network. Any of our picks for best VPN for cloud storage should do the trick.
Paying users can select whether or not Boxcryptor encrypts only file content, or file names, too. Boxcryptor has an additional feature that lets you require either the entry of your Boxcryptor password or a pin number whenever you start the application.
Finally, if your computer or smartphone is stolen, you can unlink that device directly from the Boxcryptor website. This results in revoking access to files encrypted on that device, protecting your content.
Boxcryptor provides direct support both in English and German via email. Email support is technically only available for paying customers, although Boxcryptor will occasionally answer emails from free users on what the company terms a “goodwill” basis. Business users get priority support.
Support is restricted to Monday through Friday. If you need support during weekends or don’t want to wait for a response, Boxcryptor recommends trying the user forum. However, a look at that forum shows that it’s not very active, so you might end up waiting even longer.
You might have better luck with the Boxcryptor help site, which is well-stocked with support articles and searchable. There you’ll find introductory steps, help for creating custom locations, troubleshooting guides and articles on other topics.
We’d like to see online chat and more regular support hours, but overall Boxcryptor support should be sufficient for most use. The product itself isn’t that complex.
Seizing control of your own privacy isn’t a foolproof way to keep your digital data safe in the cloud, but it’s a much better approach than hoping that your cloud storage provider can be trusted to protect it for you. Using Boxcryptor is a good way to start doing that.
Boxcryptor works to secure each of the “big three” cloud storage services: Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. It also works with many of the best enterprise sync and share services, including our favorite cloud storage for business, Egnyte Connect.
While it can take some getting used to, we found that the user experience is about as well-managed as it can be. If you’re looking for something a little more plug and play, have a look at our Sync.com review.
Overall, Boxcryptor is a great tool for protecting your privacy and the cost is right at $48 per year for unlimited cloud storage connections. That’s our take, anyway. You can come to your own conclusions by signing up for a free Boxcryptor account.
Let us know how it goes in the comments below, and thanks for reading.