Compare with FireVault
Too long to read right now? Read only the conclusion.
FireVault is disk encryption software that comes built in with a Mac.
With FireVault turned on, when you save a file in a text editor
application with some content like
your Mac encrypts the content before it writes it to the hard disk. So
the bits written to the hard disk will be encrypted gibberish like
AAAC3NzaC1lU. When you later open the file in your
text editor, your Mac automatically reads the encrypted gibberish from
the hard disk and displays it in your editor in its original, decrypted
The encryption and decryption key used by FireVault is locked behind your Mac’s login password. This key is unlocked when you log in to your Mac.
- FireVault is effective at protecting your data in situations in which an adversary gains physical access to your Mac. For example, if an adversary clones your Mac’s hard disk when you’re away from your hotel room or if your Mac is stolen at a coffee house, the adversary will not be able to read your data without your login password because it’s all encrypted gibberish on the hard disk.
- FireVault on its own can’t protect your files from malicious software on your Mac, or if an adversary has access to your unlocked Mac.
Algebraic is a file encryption application. Algebraic can protect your files in the situations described above in which FireVault can’t.
Algebraic works by rewriting the original data in your file (for
Hello world) into its encrypted form
AAAC3NzaC1lU), based on an encryption password
of your choice. Decrypting the data back into its original form requires
Unlike FireVault, Algebraic changes the actual contents of the file as seen by other software on your Mac, so no-one—including malicious software or an adversary—can view your file’s content, even when your Mac is unlocked, without knowing the file’s encryption password.
With Algebraic, malicious software or an adversary who has physical access to your unlocked Mac will not be able to access your encrypted files without knowing the encryption passwords.
With Algebraic, you can use different encryption passwords of your choice to encrypt different files. FireVault’s encryption, on the other hand, is always based on your login password.
Because Algebraic encrypts your data at the file level, you can share an encrypted file in iMessage just like a regular file. Or you can save an encrypted file in Google Drive with complete confidence that no prying eyes can view its original content without the encryption password.
Read more about the state of the art cryptography that Algebraic relies on.
Unlike FireVault, which transparently encrypts and decrypts bytes on your hard disk, Algebraic requires you to manually encrypt and decrypt files using the file’s encryption password.
(The manual encryption and decryption process, however, provides you the option of decrypting your most sensitive files only when you’re actively using them. If using just FireVault alone, files are readable by virtually any program on your Mac, including malicious ones, from the moment you log in.)
FireVault and Algebraic complement each other. They both perform different functions, and they’re designed to protect your data in different scenarios. Most people should use both.
|Encryption type||Disk encryption||File encryption|
|What does it do||Encrypts hard disk||Encrypts individual files|
|Password flexibility||Login password only||Choose any password|
|Encryption/decryption is manual||No||Yes, requires password|
|Malware can view file data||Always||Only when file is decrypted|
|Share encrypted files||No||Yes|
Turn on FireVault as soon as you start using a Mac. Then additionally use Algebraic to encrypt your most sensitive files, such as personal photos, financial documents, or digital IDs.
To turn on FireVault, follow the steps at support.apple.com.
To get started with Algebraic, download it using the button below.