How to Make Your Evernote Data Extra Secure

Evernote Elephant

Introduction:  What Is Evernote?

Evernote is a free app that runs on almost every device available in the world today.  It’s not just free, it also amazing.  It’s a note-taking service that has garnered a huge fan-base worldwide including:

  • Millions of regular users worldwide – individual’s like you and me.
  • A huge Enterprise user-base which includes some of the largest corporations in the world
  • A large educational user-base including primary and secondary schools as well as colleges, both in the US and all around the world

Evernote is a key to productivity for both individuals and corporations.  This 3 1/2 minute video gives a great overview of how corporations can use Evernote:

Evernote first came on the scene in 2008.  By 2015 there were over 150 million users worldwide!  Why has EV grown in popularity so incredibly fast?  I think it’s because of the core product, the note taking app, which continues to improve by keeping up with technological advances…and of course the fact that it remains free!

While conceptually the app sounds like it is simple, and in many ways it is because learning to use it is quite easy, it’s also infinitely complex in the way that data is managed, which means that it’s sophisticated enough to meet the demands of hard core coders yet uncomplicated enough to meet the demands of grade school kids.

If you’d like to read more about what Evernote is and how to start using it, I’ve written an article you can read using the link below (this is one of my early pieces, so…reader beware…the writing my be awful!)

You can read more about how I first came to learn of Evernote and how I tackled the learning curve here.

Some great examples of how the Evernote team continues to innovate can be found at EV’s blog.  I just visited it to grab the link, and was surprised by another huge innovation…Evernote is joining forces with Google Drive in order to make the 2 operate seamlessly within their own confines.  What does this mean?  Well, you’ll have another attachment icon in your notes…one for Google Drive.  Anything you connect will be kept up-to-date with synced changes.  This could really end up being a huge coup for both Evernote and Google Drive!  Here’s a link read this and more EV blogs for your self.

3 Different Versions of Evernote Are Available

Evernote currently has 3 versions in terms of pricing, the Free Version which is their core product,  the Plus Version and the Premium Version.  Below is a chart showing one key difference between the versions…the amount of data that you are allowed to on a monthly basis.

Differences in 3 Versions of Everboten

While the free version of Evernote is amazing and really offers all the power of the paid versions, each of the paid versions offer a little bit more in terms of the amount of data stored monthly or in terms of extra bells and whistles…especially those pertaining to security.

Evernote’s Plus version, which is $25 per year allows users to store more data, store their notebooks on their devices in offline mode so notes are available regardless of Internet availability, and last is the ability to secure the app on devices with a passcode or a PIN.  The Premium version is what I have.  The reason I do is because it offers 1 additional feature that lets me make my data even more secure…and that is the ability to encrypt portions of any note so that they can only be opened by me. Evernote currently charges $45 per year for this plan (or possible $49.99…its stated differently depending upon where you look.)  Below is a screenshot showing more of the features that are included in the Premium Plan.

Evernote Premium Plan Features

App Password & Data Encryption

It’s specifically these 2 features which are the main subjects of this article. They include:

  1. A method to keep your note data safe from anyone who has access to your device. Specifically this gives you the ability to set up a passcode and/or Touch ID to keep your note’s data base completely private and secure from anyone who gains physical access to your device.
  2. The ability to encrypt data within notes.  This feature offers yet another layer of security so that you can store sensitive data like health information, financial information or even usernames and passwords.

Find Premium & Plus Features Right Within Evernote’s ios & Android App

ios App |  iPad & iPhone

To learn more about Evernote’s Premium versions, if you already use Evernote on ios you can open the app and go to ‘Settings – Premium – Learn More.’  This will take you to a lot of information Evernote has published about their different levels of service. See the screenshots below:

Tap on the great symbol to get into settings

 

Where you can see what extra features Premium users get

Android App

To find out more about the features of the current plan you subscribe to right within the Android app first open Settings. Tap on the top item in the left hand column…Account Information. Once that opens tap on the top item in the right hand (really the main) window…which should display your username and your account status and type…i.e. Premium or other.

To learn more about the other plans you need to hunt a little bit, but the easiest method of doing so is by opening the ‘Explore Evernote‘ menu item in the main menu.  This will display an ever changing variety of Evernote features that help users get the most productivity out of using EV.  Look for features that say ‘learn more‘ in blue on the bottom right.  These are the features that aren’t included in your current plan. A good one to check out is Offline Notebooks.

FYI:  Another thing I love about Evernote is the ability to crop and annotate screenshots from within any note.  This was always available through a standalone companion app called Skitch, but the workflow was cumbersome before.  Now Skitch functionality is incorporated into the main editing functions of Evernote so you can annotate notes on the fly easily like I did with all the screenshots here (primarily the arrows and the pixelation to obscure sensitive data).

Setting a PIN

Once you’ve subscribed to Evernote as a premium user, you can setup a 4 digit numeric PIN code to access the app on ios and Android devices.  This is accomplished in the same manner as shown above.  Just go to Settings – General – Passcode Lock and follow the instructions.  It’s pretty straightforward and easy to setup and use.

The only additional aspect that may require some attention may arise if you uninstall the app for some reason, and then reinstall it, in which case your PIN setup must be done again.  This might occur if you’re having problems with the app and are advised by support to uninstall and reinstall it.  (Which reminds me that there is another cool feature for premium users and that’s quicker response time from support!)  Or you may decide to uninstall and reinstall the app on your own because something is acting weird. That’s generally the first step to take when attempting to correct any odd ios app behavior anyway.

Encryption  The encryption feature of Evernote is simple and relatively low tech.

There are a few simple points to keep in mind about the encryption function:

1.  You are only able to encrypt blocks of text within a note, not an entire note or notebook.

2.  The encryption feature can only be done on a computer, although encrypted blocks of text can be accessed and temporarily unencrypted to be viewed on mobile devices.

3.   Presently (June 2016) if you are using the search function in Evernote, encrypted parts of notes will not be searched.  However, I suspect this may change in the future.  When I first switched to Premium the search function did search encrypted sections and it was really great (quite impressive too!)  It may be that there are technical limits to enabling this and maintaining security, but I’m hoping they find a way to bring it back.

4.  All encrypted information is viewable from any mobile device.  It’s this functionality that makes the feature so worthwhile, and it’s one of the main reasons I love Evernote so much!  Mobile devices are also capable of permanently decrypting data…you are just not able to encrypt it again from a mobile device.

5.  Encryption can only be done on text and numeric data…at least that’s all I’ve been able to accomplish so far.  This means that you can’t encrypt pictures or audio notes for example, but you can encrypt hyperlinks or tables of numeric data (I think, but I’ve never tried to encrypt a table.)

6.  When you encrypt something you use a code to decrypt it.  One important aspect to keep in mind is that you should record this code somewhere safe…preferably not digitally.  But if you do decide to use the digital approach, one way to keep secure data like this is through the use of a Password Manager like Dashlane, which I’ve written much more about here.

Steps to Encrypt text in Windows

(These are probably the same steps as on a mac, but I don’t remember how to select text and pullup or right-click submenus, which is all that would be different with an Apple device.)

 

1.  Type in the note information that you’d like to encrypt.  This can be done on a computer or on a mobile device.

2.  Go to your computer, open the note containing the text you’d like to encrypt, highlight the block of text and right click to bring up a submenu.

3. In the screenshot below I’ve entered two lines of text…I’ll encrypt the second line:

Encrypting example

First I select the portion of test that I want to encrypt:

I'm encrypting the second line of text

When I right-click on the selected portion this menu appears:

The right click menu

4.  Select ‘Encrypt Selected Text…’ and create an encryption passphrase and a hint to remember it with.

This passphrase will be the same one that you will use to ‘unlock’ or to view the encrypted sections of text on mobile devices.

5.  Once you’ve entered the passphrase the section of text will appear like this:

Example of text right after its encrypted

6.   To view the encrypted data on any device, just click or tap on it and enter your encryption key or passphrase.

Steps for Viewing the Encrypted Information on ios devices

  • Navigate to the note with encrypted text
  • Remain in the view where you are viewing the note but not editing it…you can tell you are in this view by the fact that the virtual keyboard doesn’t show up for editing.
  • Tap on the lock symbol for the data block you want to decrypt and type in the passphrase.  If the section you want to decrypt isn’t visible you should be able to scroll thru the note to the appropriate place without enabling editing mode and without pulling up the keyboard.
  • If tapping on the lock symbol a few times doesn’t open it, you may have inadvertently gotten yourself I into editing mode.  Just tap on another note to close the one that you’re in and then tap on this one again to bring it back into ‘view’ mode and try it again.

Below is an example of how encrypted text appears on iPad:

Example of encrypted text on mobile devices

Below is an example of viewing the note in ‘view’ mode (btw, I made up the  phrase ‘view mode’…so if you use it and get blank stares, that’s why!)

You need to enter a passphrase

 

Afterthought

That’s all there is to securing your data in Evernote!  It’s really very easy to do. I’m writing this for an absolute beginner therefore I’ve provided way more detail than might be necessary for most users!  That’s the beauty of Evernote…sophisticated, yet simple!

Please leave any comments below:

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About vsajewel

Hi...I'm the author of 2 main blogs on WordPress.com. vsatips...which is about tech tips for mobile devices like cellphones & tablets. vsatrends, my 2nd blog, is focused more on lifestyle trends...especially those with a strong design element. I also host a YouThe channel which includes aspects of both websites.
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2 Responses to How to Make Your Evernote Data Extra Secure

  1. Pingback: Evernote or Apple Notes…Which is Best? | vsatips

  2. Bill Ardern says:

    Very Good Post!

    Bill Ardern

    >

    Like

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