NordLocker has evolved quickly since its launch. It began life as a system to encrypt files and folders and store the encrypted results our your computer. Today, however, it is a fully-fledged encryption tool and cloud storage solution.
But can it compete with the other big names in the secure cloud storage sphere?
In this NordLocker review we will answer this question and more, while also examining the hands-on test results.
As we noted above, NordLocker started out as a simple encryption tool. Today, NordLocker retains all its original capabilities, and adds its own encrypted cloud storage system as well. Why the change? As Oliver Noble, an encryption specialist at NordLocker explains,
NordLocker took a challenge to revise and turn round existing cloud storage practices. Encrypting files first and uploading them to the cloud of the same provider helps to avoid the involvement of third-party vendors. All that can be done with a single move of drag and drop.
With 3 GB of NordLocker Cloud storage now included in the Free NordLocker plan, and 500 GB included in the paid Premium plan, NordLocker is now positioned to go head-to-head with the leading cloud storage services, rather than just relying on them for storage.
Here’s an overview of the Pros and Cons we identified in testing out NordLocker for this review.
Clean, drag-and-drop design
Strong, end-to-end (zero-knowledge) encryption
Cloud and desktop encrypted file storage
Same platform and cross-platform sync
No file size or type restrictions
HIPPA and GDPR compliant
Free, Premium, and Business plans available
Open, edit, and save files directly in lockers
New, lower price
Numerous payment options
30 day, money-back guarantee
Not open source
No Linux or mobile clients
Doesn’t accept Paypal
So now let’s start this off with a summary of NordLocker’s main features.
NordLocker features summary
Here is a quick summary of NordLocker’s features.
Supported platforms include Windows and Mac OS
End-to-end data encryption using AES-256, ECC (with XChaCha20, EdDSA, and Poly1305), and Argon2
NordCloud lockers that synchronize across all your devices
NordLocker background check
The Nord Security brand (a.k.a. NordSec or Nord) was established in 2012. It is a multinational security company with over 600 employees. In addition to NordLocker, they have created a range of personal and corporate security products. Their most famous product is NordVPN, arguably one of the most popular VPN services around.
In recent years, the NordSec team has added other products to their lineup, including NordPass and NordLocker.
NordLocker is based in Panama under the parent company Tefincom. This country is one of the better locations for a security and privacy-oriented business. The government of Panama doesn’t impose any data retention requirements on companies. There is no internet censorship or surveillance, and the country is not part of any international surveillance treaties.
Where NordLocker data is stored
NordLocker gives you many data storage options. Therefore the answer to this question depends on the person and circumstances.
At the most basic level, your data is encrypted and stored in folders called lockers. You can create lockers that reside locally on your computer. Additionally, you can create lockers that reside in the new NordLocker Cloud.
NordLocker Cloud lockers
If you create a locker in the NordLocker Cloud, anything you store in that locker will automatically be synced to any other instance of NordLocker you install. This means you can use the NordLocker Cloud to share files and entire folders between all your Windows and Mac OS computers.
When you store files or folders in a NordLocker Cloud locker, you have a decision to make:
Do you copy the item into the locker (leaving the original, unencrypted item on your computer), or
Do you move the item into the locker (deleting the original, unencrypted item from your computer)
In most cases you will probably want to move the items and access them through NordLocker. But you always have the option to keep the unencrypted copies available, such as when you are testing NordLocker to see how it works with your particular applications.
If you do move the items to the cloud instead of copying them, you will be able to access them directly from the cloud without downloading them to your computer first. Or you can have the files automatically download to the computer as well as continue to live in the cloud.
Keeping files only in the NordLocker Cloud saves you storage space on your computers, but makes you dependent on an active internet connection to access them.
Automatically downloading files to your computer uses more space but gives you access to them whether you have internet access or not.
Lockers on your PC (local lockers)
If you create a locker on your PC (we’ll call them local lockers for convenience), anything you store in the local locker gets encrypted, which means it can only be read using NordLocker. Anyone snooping around on your computer can see the encrypted locker but can’t read it or even know the names of any files or folders contained within it.
As we discussed earlier, local lockers are compatible with third-party cloud storage services. You can create a local locker in a location that is being synched by one of those third-party services, and they will happily sync the encrypted locker across all your computers. You’ll still need a copy of NordLocker on any computer where you want to be able to open the locker, but since you can install NordLocker on an unlimited number of computers at no extra charge, that’s not a problem.
As you can see, NordLocker gives you a huge range of options. You can use it to encrypt data on your computer. You can use it to encrypt data that gets securely synched by third-party cloud storage services. You can encrypt data that gets securely stored in NordLocker’s own secure cloud storage. And you can mix and match all the options any way you wish.
NordLocker Terms of Service
I reviewed the NordLocker Terms of Service (composed of the NordLocker Additional Terms, updated August 11, 2020 and the Nord Account General Terms of Service, updated May 17, 2020.
I didn’t see anything unusual or worrying in this document. There is the usual admonition to not do anything illegal with the service, and a reminder that it is your responsibility to know what is illegal wherever you are. But that is pretty standard.
The other thing to note is that the NordLocker service may include third-party software. Nord disclaims any warranty or other assurance about that third-party software.
NordLocker collects anonymized app diagnostics (including crash reports), anonymized usage statistics, and non-identifying device information such as the model of your device and the operating system version.
This is nothing out of the ordinary or concerning from our perspective.
NordLocker security audits & other third-party tests
Both NordPass and also NordVPN have undergone third-party audits. In fact, NordVPN has undergone a security audit and also two audits to confirm it is truly a no logs VPN service.
I spoke to NordLocker support. Not surprisingly for such a young product, they have not had any third-party testing or security audits done yet.
While it would be nice to have such test results available, the fact that the product comes from the makers of NordVPN makes me more comfortable about their security than I would be if they were a brand-new company without Nord’s deep roots in security.
As someone who is deeply interested in the privacy and security of his online data, I was disappointed to see that NordLocker still does not support Linux, Android, or iOS devices.
NordLocker does support the operating systems most general computer users have: Windows 10 64-bit, and Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra) or higher.
Each operating system includes three versions of NordLocker: Free, Premium, and Business.
The Free version and the Premium version are the same, except that the Free version is limited to 3 GB of cloud storage and email support. The Premium version gives you 500 GB of cloud storage and 24/7 priority support.
The Business version of NordLocker can secure important data across the entire business. With it, all your organization’s important files can be end to end encrypted and stored safely in the cloud.
Your employees can easily share encrypted files regardless of their physical location, a major bonus when your staff is forced to work at home. Because you have complete access control, even if someone’s laptop gets stolen from the proverbial coffee shop, you can deny the thief access.
NordLocker Business is designed to help you stay compliant with GDPR and HIPAA requirements.
NordLocker can be particularly useful in areas where protecting data is paramount, such as the healthcare industry, the education sector, and numerous legal and financial applications.
Is NordLocker open source software?
NordLocker is not open source software. I like open source software because the code can be reviewed by anyone who cares to do so. While this does not guarantee that there are no back doors or other dubious activities going on, the chance that someone will do something nasty in open source code seems much lower than for proprietary software.
While NordLocker is proprietary software, the company is well-respected in the privacy and security fields. The code is based on the gocryptfs per-file encryption code.
Gocryptfs is open source software that allows NordLocker to encrypt and decrypt each file in a locker individually, instead of encrypting the entire locker as a single object. This has a huge advantage.
Since each file in a locker is encrypted individually, a change to one file requires only that the encrypted changed file gets stored, not the entire folder. Likewise, decrypting one file from a locker involves only that file, rather than decrypting the entire locker.
NordLocker hands-on testing
I installed and tested NordLocker on a system running Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit along with a Windows 10 virtual machine.
To install NordLocker, go here and download then run the installer.
During the installation process you will be required to enter your email address and password. If you already have an account set up for NordVPN or NordPass, you will need to enter the same email address and password.
Once you have created a new account or signed in to your existing one, you will need to create a master password. The master password is used to encrypt/decrypt your data, so make it long and strong. (See our tips for strong passwords.)
Finally, NordLocker will give you a recovery key. You can use the key to regain access to your data if you lose your master password. Make sure you keep it in a safe place. If you lose both the master password and the recovery key your data will be lost forever.
There isn’t a lot of configuration you need to do with NordLocker. You can happily use it with the default settings, but I would recommend you consider a couple of changes.
Here is the Settings page:
I recommend you set Launch application when computer starts, and clear Send anonymous usage data.
Until you open NordLocker with your master password, the files and folders within the lockers remain safely encrypted. Even someone with physical access to your computer will be unable to decrypt them unless they somehow also get their hands on your master password.
While NordLocker gives you some default folders to start out, you’ll want to create your own before too long. Doing so is simple. Open NordLocker with your master password, then hover the cursor to the right of NordLocker Cloud (BETA) and a circle with a cross will appear (see below).
Click that to create a new locker. You’ll need to choose between creating a cloud locker (stored in NordLocker Cloud) and a locker that resides only on your PC.
Note that the cloud locker feature is still technically a beta, so by the time you read this, the details may have changed a bit.
Encrypting files with NordLocker
Encrypting files and folders with NordLocker is simple: just drag and drop them into an open locker window. When you do, NordLocker will ask you if you want to create an encrypted copy of the original item(s), or encrypt the original(s) and move them to the locker.
Moving the original(s) deletes them from their original folder. Those deleted files don’t appear in the Recycle Bin, but NordLocker doesn’t apply any secure deletion algorithms to ensure that an expert can’t recover them.
Storing items online
When NordLocker first came out, it depended on other cloud services to move its folders online. The design of NordLocker is such that it worked fine with virtually any cloud service. Store a locker in a cloud service’s folder and it would be accessible wherever the cloud service’s folder was available (assuming NordLocker was there too).
This way of storing NordLocker files and folders online still works, but when you use the dialog box above to create a new locker, you are creating a locker that lives in the new NordLocker Cloud.
Using the NordLocker Cloud to store NordLocker files and lockers makes sense. It streamlines the process, and eliminates third-party involvement in whatever you are doing with NordLocker. 500 GB of cloud storage should be sufficient for most people, and if you do need more, you can contact NordLocker to get it taken care of.
One other thing to keep in mind when considering a paid NordLocker subscription is that any changes you make to items stored in NordLocker Cloud are immediately replicated to every computer you have connected to that cloud locker.
Sharing NordLocker lockers
NordLocker gives you the ability to share lockers with other people. Interestingly, you can only share local lockers, not NordCloud lockers (at least right now). To share a locker, select it in the NordLocker interface, then click the Share Locker link at the top of the NordLocker window. This opens the dialog box in the following image. You enter the email addresses of the people with whom you wish to share the locker. NordLocker automatically sends an email to anyone on the list who is not already a NordLocker user, inviting them to install NordLocker so they can open the locker.
Clicking the Share button in the dialog box gives you three sharing options: Send via Dropbox, Send via Google Drive, and Show in File Explorer. You will need to have a Dropbox or Google Drive account to use those options.
The Show in File Explorer option doesn’t attempt to send the locker for you. Instead, it shows you the locker so you can grab a copy of it and send it to the recipients using whatever technique you wish: email it, put it on a thumb drive and hand it to them, whatever works best.
The recipient will be able to log into their copy of NordLocker and open the locker normally.
Using files and folders encrypted with NordLocker
If you unlock NordLocker with your master password, files and folders stored in lockers act like they normally would. You can open files with their usual programs, browse folders, and so on, as if NordLocker didn’t exist. There is no need to copy files from their lockers, decrypt them, work on them, then encrypt them and return them to their lockers. NordLocker handles all that messy stuff for you.
Given the newness of NordLocker, and the impact of the even newer NordLocker Cloud, I’m sure that the support team is still on a bit of a learning curve.
Their response to my questions about a glitch I had with NordLocker Cloud was prompt and competent, but they didn’t appear to have any special insight into the problem I was experiencing. This will probably come with time as the department builds up a database of problems and solutions, and the rate of change of the product itself slows.
In addition, your impression of NordLocker support will be shaped by the version of NordLocker you are using. One of the big differences between the Free and Premium versions of NordLocker is support. Free users get email support, while Premium users get priority 24/7 support.
Given that the support team at NordVPN is excellent, I expect the NordLocker team will reach that level as well.
How secure and private is NordLocker?
Let’s talk specifically about NordLocker security and privacy for a moment.
This product is secure.
Your data is encrypted on your computer, using extremely strong AES-256 encryption. Since only you know the Master Password for your installation of NordLocker, and all encryption / decryption occurs on our computer, no one, not even NordLocker can decrypt it. The only way for anyone to get access to your data would be to find out your Master Password by watching over your shoulder while you type it in, or installing some sort of keylogger on your computer.
NordLocker pricing is nice and simple. There’s the Free plan, which of course is free of charge. The Premium plan costs $3.99 per month with the annual plan, or $7.99 per month if want to pay on a monthly basis. Note carefully that after your first year on the yearly subscription, the NordLocker price goes up from $47.88 per year to $59.88 per year.
One drawback we noted with pricing is that there is no option to pay with PayPal in the US.
Additional add-ons: NordPass and NordVPN
When you are on the checkout page, you will also see that you have the option to bundle services. When purchasing NordLocker, you can also add NordVPN and/or NordPass to your subscription.
While I’m normally hesitant about bundling services, Nord products consistently do well in our testing. Additionally, the NordSec lineup of products continue to update and improve, so it is a good investment for the long term. NordVPN is currently one of the best VPNs in our rankings, and NordPass is a solid solution as well.
Savings TIP: If you want to add NordVPN to your subscription, you can take advantage of the NordVPN coupon – but you will need to purchase NordVPN separately from NordLocker. This will drop the price below what you see above ($4.08 per month) and allow you to get NordVPN for only $3.71 per month. Get the 68% discount coupon here.
NordLocker review conclusion
So is NordLocker one of the best cloud storage solutions for you?
I think that depends on your specific needs. If you are looking for an easy-to-use file encryption solution, the Free NordLocker plan is an excellent place to start.
If you are looking for secure cloud storage, the NordLocker Premium plan offers 500 GB of storage for a price that beats most of the competition. Plus, NordLocker gives you more options related to how you encrypt and store your data than you get from pure cloud storage services. If you value that flexibility, or simply want the most secure cloud storage for your dollars, I recommend you download the NordLocker today and try it out.
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