iOS, macOS

Bear app’s encryption best, strongest, most user-friendly

Bear app gets encryption

A slim note taker with markdown capabilities at its core, Bear by Shiny Frog has gained a considerable advantage over its competitors. Mac and iOS app Bear is well known for its bare (sounds like bear but no pun intended) interface that stays out of the way as you gather your thoughts, web pages, recipes, checklists and anything else you can jot down in wordy format — with or without images. The newest version has full encryption capabilities.

Yes, you read that right, Bear’s notes can be encrypted. Better yet, you can lock down the entire Bear app for full-scale privacy and secrecy. The newest version of Bear has more up its sleeve, including the ability to link notes together even if you give a note a new title. You can now also search for anything — including tags or excluding tags — and focus on top-level tags. There are also emoji auto-complete, two new themes, support for Spotlight search on the Mac, 33 new tag icons (so-called TagCons) and more.

However, the biggest and most important Bear feature now is, of course, the lock down and encryption functionality. Locking Bear is easy. You just turn on the option in the Preferences panel and your Mac’s macOS password will be required to view Bear’s notes. Bear will start and show you a nice wallpaper until you enter the password.

But the really juicy part is that you get to set a password for encrypting individual notes. The encryption is no sissy, either. It was developed in cooperation with Cossack Labs and it uses the Themis Open Source library (AES-GCM-256 with ZRTP KDF) with a unique encryption key for each note (but don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have to remember a password for each note!).

On iOS devices, the password is stored for biometric authentication using Apple’s SecureEnclave through the Valet Open Source library. Bear’s security structure is said to go even further or deeper, but none of it interferes with how user-friendly Bear is. In fact, except for the password you need to enter when you want to open an encrypted note, nothing has changed.

The one thing you should do, however, is save your password in a password manager like 1Password, because, if you lose it, no-one will be able to open up your notes ever again.

Some of the new features, including the per-note encryption, requires a subscription. To be honest, I’m not a fan of subscription licenses, not even if they’re fairly cheap at €16 a year.

But with version 1.7 the Pro subscription gets you something that really is worth more than a fee that’s less than one pint of beer per month. Even if you’re not writing notes that contain secrets — protection against hackers and prying government eyes is worth more than €16/year!