With all this news that big brother is watching everything we do in the tech world –as if that was never a possibility in the first place- it certainly leaves many wondering what they can do to protect themselves. Realistically, there’s only one answer even if it isn’t the most secure option and it involves encryption. Cryptography is the practice of hiding text messages in some way or another that only the sender and recipient can decipher. We’ve covered cryptography tools at dotTech before, and even featured a piece that actually discusses the best tools available. BCTextEncoder is a similar cryptography tool that is portable and lightweight, and handles only text based content. Let’s check out if it is worth your time.
What is it and what does it do
BCTextEncoder is a portable Windows application that allows you to encrypt basic text messages thanks to a password-based system. As long as the recipient and sender both have the encryption key or certificate the message can be deciphered and read. Of course, you just need to figure out a way to send the key without big brother listening in. In that case, you would probably want to use the good ol’ fashioned pen and paper method to pass the key, before starting any conversations. If distance is an issue, then that option is out of the question, but there are alternate –and clever- ways of passing said information back and forth.
- Can encode and decrypt plain text messages
- You can lock down the message through a personal password or public/paired key
- It includes an integrated encryption key generator
- Keys can be imported or exported as necessary
- It’s portable and lightweight, that’s always a plus
- You could consider the limitations a con if you were looking for a more comprehensive cryptography tool (steganography is a similar practice)
- Both the sender and the recipient need to have the program available
I can’t speak for other download locations, but if you download BCTextEncoder from the official website it comes as a single executable file. You do not need to extract any compressed archives to gain access to the tool. It’s as simple as downloading the executable and opening it right up. Once downloaded, you can store the related exe on your computer or a portable drive for travel.
It’s worth noting that I did not encounter any bloatware or additional software when downloading the tool either. You will have to navigate to the developer’s [Jetico’s] download page and then select “free tools” in order to find the app.
In terms of how the app works, it’s pretty straightforward like most of the programs I review. You enter the plain text and choose an encryption method, then press “encode”. Adversely, you would enter the encrypted message and press “decode”. You can also save both the encrypted or decrypted message as a text file. This allows you to send just the file or store it for later. There’s an additional option to send the encoded text by email.
You can encode the message with a personal password, or you can apply a public key thanks to the integrated key manager. If you opt to use a password it must be longer than 8 characters since the app uses AES-256 bit encryption methods. There’s no mention of the 8 character requirement in a system message, but you will see a warning if you try to enter a password smaller than that.
You can let the program generate a public key or secret key pair for you, or you can import an existing one. It goes without saying that you can import and export keys via external files. You can also assign a custom storage directory for the related keys, which is a great feature to have if you’re using the app on a portable drive. During creation of the key, you can choose the encryption algorithm (RSA, or RSA generate safe prime), enter a key size, designate a friendly name and enter a password.
It’s worth noting that when entering text into either the encode, or decode fields you can copy+paste with the Windows clipboard if necessary.
As the name implies, BCTextEncoder just handles text based messages, and that’s it. If you want to use other methods which include images (steganography), or similar features then you should look elsewhere.
If you save the encoded message as a file, it generates a plain text file with something like the following:
-----BEGIN ENCODED MESSAGE-----
Version: BCTextEncoder Utility v. 1.00.7
-----END ENCODED MESSAGE-----
If you take that encoded message and enter it into the encoded text field in the app, and then press decode it will ask for the password. Instead of outright telling you what that encrypted message says, I’ll just give you the password (which is pretty simple). Check out the encoded message for yourself if you wish, by copying and pasting the above text into the encoded text field and entering the following password:
If you have the message figured out, try to keep it out of the comments below. It’s not exactly a secret, but it will spoil the fun for others. That is, of course, if you find amusement in that sort of thing.
For reference, BCTextEncoder uses less than 1MB of RAM while running, so it’s safe to say that it’s pretty lightweight.
Conclusion and download link
BCTextEncoder is a portable and lightweight cryptography tool that allows you to encode basic text messages. You can encrypt the messages with a password or public/paired key. If you’re creating the key from scratch, the app includes a key generation wizard. If you’re decoding a message from someone, you can import keys, which can be saved and sent as an external file. The app itself is pretty easy to use, as you just enter a message, choose an encryption lock (password or key), and then press “encode”. Adversely, decoding a message is just as simple. Both the recipient and sender will need access to the application to pass messages back and forth, but since it’s readily accessible and free that’s not a stretch to make happen. It’s incredibly lightweight too, considering it uses less than 1MB of RAM while running.
If you need an app that allows you to encode/decode text easily, check this one out. However, remember this app only works with plain text messages, so if you’re looking for a more advanced tool which employs images or comprehensive support you’ll have to inquire elsewhere — like dotTech’s review of best free steganography programs on Windows.
Version reviewed: 1.00.7
Supported OS: Windows 2000, 2003, 2008, XP, Vista, Seven
Download size: 1.20MB
VirusTotal malware scan results: 0/47
Is it portable? Yes