Data encryption is a hot topic as of late. With growing concerns over privacy, malicious software, and hackers, personal computer users and businesses alike are all beginning to embrace encryption. Thankfully, there are already plenty of encryption solutions for you to use - and some of the might be included as a part of the system you already own.
Encrypting Files with Apple FileVault
If you own a Mac computer running Mac OS X 10.3 or later, your system already includes Apple FileVault by default. Originally introduced with OS X Panther and included in every subsequent OS release, FileVault is an easy and highly secure means of safeguarding your data from prying eyes.
Once FileVault has been enabled on your system, you can use it to encrypt your entire startup disk as well as the contents of any Time Machine backups, too. Moreover, it remains active amongst your background processes to encrypt new data on-the-fly and to maintain the integrity of your data around the clock.
To initiate FileVault, load your Mac OS and click on the Apple menu. From there, click on "System Preferences" and navigate to "Security & Privacy." Next, click on the FileVault tab and select the lock icon. After entering your administrator login name and password, you'll be able to click "Turn On FileVault" to begin the service.
After it has been enabled on your system, FileVault will require you to login with your account password every time. This is another safeguard that keeps your data safe from anyone who might have physical access to your device.
If you have multiple accounts on your Mac, you'll need to enable each individual account by clicking the "Enable User" button for each login and entering the appropriate password. Once the password has been entered, FileVault will be automatically enabled when logging in to the account.
You can also select a method for restoring access to your disk and resetting your password if you should ever forget it. With OS X Yosemite or later, you'll be able to use your iCloud account. With OS X Mavericks, you can provide three questions - complete with corresponding answers - that will let you create a FileVault recovery key.
Finally, you can also create a local recovery key. However, you'll need to store this file somewhere safe - and separate from your encrypted drive - for best results. If you lose both your password and your recovery key, you won't be able to restore access to your startup disk or even login to your Mac.
Although the original FileVault was unveiled in 2003, Apple developers introduced an updated version - FileVault 2 - in 2011. Citing many shortcomings and flaws in the first version of FileVault, the predecessor saw many upgrades and enhancements - including the implementation of XTS-AES-128 encryption with a 256-bit key.
In most cases, FileVault 2 isn't absolutely necessary. If you use your Mac strictly for gaming, for example, you're probably not worried about your files falling into the wrong hands. If you're running a business that stores the personal information of your employees or your customers, however, FileVault 2 can help you keep this data secure and inaccessible to anyone without the appropriate credentials.
You may read more about FileVault in Wikipedia: FileVault.