Security on the Internet has been a big issue for a while now. It is fairly common because the hacker or scammer does not need to be at the same location as you. But there is also the issue of keeping your computer safe. If you have no protection, and it gets stolen, all your data can be read by others. Even if you just go to the bathroom at Starbucks and leave your computer unwatched, there is potential risk. Although these types of theft are fairly uncommon, you may still want to secure yourself. An application that can help you with this is Tao Effect’s Espionage.

Espionage’s biggest advantage over other security software is its Application Templates and Application Associations. Instead of having to encrypt your Mail folder, and then decrypt it whenever you want to read your Mail, Espionage does this automatically for you. Just go to File>Application Templates… and choose Mail. You will then choose a password and choose what type of encryption to use. AES-256 is more secure than AES-128, but it is not needed for everything, and it takes longer to encrypt and decrypt. It should really only be used for extremely secret documents. Once you click Go, you will be prompted with the Application Associations window. This allows you to edit the password for the application, the location and the type of encryption. If you click Edit Application Associations, you will be prompted with a sheet that allows you to set the application to Lock on Quit and to have it launch at startup. This is different from a regular ‘Launch at Startup,’ because this actually delays the application’s startup so Espionage can unlock its folder. So, do not set an application to launch at startup in System Preferences if you are using Espionage to secure its data–Use Espionage’s ‘Launch at Startup.’ You can do this process not only for Mail.app, but for 17 other apps too.

But, what if an application whose data you want secured is not in the list of Templates? Well, you can just create your own Application Association. If you go to the Application Associations window (command-L), you can create your own Associations. If you want to secure MarsEdit’s data, just drag the data (~/Library/Application Support/MarsEdit) onto the window. You will then be prompted with a sheet that allows you to choose the encryption, password, and associated application. In this case, the associated application would be MarsEdit. You have now created your own Association. So, although Espionage only comes with 18 Templates, you can make Associations for any application you wish (so long as it stores its data on your hard drive…).

Espionage does also allow you to do normal file encryption. You just drag the file (or folder) on Espionage’s window, choose the encryption type, but just don’t specify an Association. Every time you try to access the folder, Espionage will ask you for your password.

With Espionage, you can also easily backup all encrypted folders. If you go to the Backup tab of Espionage>Preferences…, you can specify all the options for the backup. And, you don’t have to backup all of your encrypted files, you can just choose which ones you want. You can also specify when to backup.

Espionage also includes a rather interesting feature for an encryption app. It allows you to do encryption-less protection. When you create a new folder encryption, if instead of choosing AES-128 or AES-256, you choose No Encryption, Espionage will not actually encrypt it. What it does do, however, is make it much harder for someone to access it. They still could (if they knew how), but if you are leaving your computer for 2 minutes to go to the bathroom (and it’s locked in place), this may be the best choice.

Tao Effect’s Espionage retails for $24.95 and you can download a free, 14-day trial from their site. It provides easy encryption with many built-in Templates and Application Associations. If you are concerned about the security of your computer, you will want to check it out to see if it is unobtrusive enough for you. If you think about it, the $24.95 might pay for itself if your computer is every compromised.