How To Encrypt Sensitive Data with TrueCrypt

In any given month, I will perhaps try out around ten new software apps or web services. Out of those ten, nine get dumped pretty much right away for various reasons but the other one, to quote Goldmember, gets filed away as a “keeper”. I am pretty picky when it comes to software and web applications. Just one small minor irritant is enough to put me off the service for life. My only requirements are that a) it is useful to me in some way and b) it will work when I want it to. You’d be amazed (or not) at how much of the internet those simple requirements automatically excludes!

I will be writing for MakeUseOf.com and to begin with, I will be talking about a small hard-core group of software apps and web services that I can’t live without. Comments are welcome and I will be watching and jumping into the discussion!

truecrypt   How To Encrypt Sensitive Data with TrueCryptToday I want to discuss an application called TrueCrypt.

I am a pretty paranoid security-conscious kind of guy which I suppose comes from being in a police family. I change my passwords once a week to another random algorithim which is good from a security point of view but absolutely hellish when it comes to remembering those passwords! I mean, who can remember 6$zx!@GH32b!$5$2X!8 ? It’s not exactly something that rolls off your tongue is it? At the same time, leaving an open password list on your computer is extremely foolish too. Plus, what about all those bank statements, tax forms, credit card bills and so on?

With the increasing popularity of online banking, the potential to have extremely sensitive information on your computer is higher than ever. What if a hacker got a hold of those forms and stole your identity? The answer – encrypt your files.

I hesitated for a long time before jumping into encryption. I tried an encryption system a few years back which immediately malfunctioned. I then couldn’t open the folders and I couldn’t get the encryption system off the operating system. I ended up having to re-format the entire Windows OS. That traumatised me for years as I had a lot of important stuff in those encrypted folders and I was hesitant to try again. However, with hackers trying to get into my online accounts on a regular basis, my passwords got longer and more complicated and I knew I would eventually have to encrypt my password list.

I looked at many possibilities but I preferred to go with a recommendation. A good friend of mine in the US recommended the free TrueCrypt and her exact words were “even an idiot could set this up!”. I figured that was good enough for me (!) and I went ahead and downloaded it. It was the best decision I ever made.

How it works basically boils down to this – you create a folder on your “C” drive, just a normal regular folder. You give it a name – let’s just say for the purposes of this discussion that it’s called FORT KNOX. This folder is where the encrypted files will be stored. You next have to decide how big you want this folder to be – choose well as you can’t change it afterwards! I chose 1GB which seemed enough for me but you may decide on more or less.

When you want to open the folder, you choose one of your drives (I normally use the Z drive) and then you move the FORT KNOX folder to that drive. Enter the master password and that then automatically decrypts and opens your files in seconds so you can access them.

When you don’t need the files anymore, just shut down and remove the FORT KNOX folder from your TrueCrypt drive. The folder is then instantly encrypted again and totally unbreakable (or so the company claims).

You can also put TrueCrypt onto your USB flash-drive so the contents are inaccessible if you lose your USB drive while out. This was a big plus for me when deciding whether to use TrueCrypt or not. I never go anywhere without my USB drive and being able to secure it gave me extra peace of mind.

Truecrypt comes with a PDF manual and there is a set-up wizard to hold your hand while you go through the set-up procedure. If you have any problems, get in touch or leave a comment and I’ll try to help. However there is a LOT more to Truecrypt which I haven’t looked at yet. In fact I have barely scratched the surface here. So I may not be able to help with any complicated queries!

Has anyone else used TrueCrypt? Any good or bad experiences with it? Can anyone recommend another good encryption program? Let us know in the comments!

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20 Comments -

0 votes

Aleksei

I am about to get new USB drive and plan to use it solely for vital data backup purposes. Something like Truecrypt would make a good addition.

You mentioned that it can be used on USB, so I assume it’s portable than. Is it?

0 votes

Mark

Yes, it can be turned into a portable version. TrueCrypt calls it “traveller-mode”

0 votes

Aibek

Hey Mark, nice post. I heard a lot about TrueCrypt but never really tried it, but this time I am definitely going to.

@Aleksei

If it can be moved to USB (which it is) than it’s portable.

0 votes

Aleksei

even better. thank you.

0 votes

Kaly

Hi Mark.
Good start, keep it coming.

0 votes

Pavvel

TrueCrypt really rocks! Also I used TCExplorer that allows to open TC volume (read-write) even without having Admin rights (http://www.codeproject.com/useritems/TCExplorer.asp need to login to download)

Here is another container-based encryption tool with offline disk browser-

Rohos Mini Drive – http://www.rohos.com/free-encryption/
* Where possible opens virtual drive or Disk Browser when no Admin rights.
* Readonly support for encrypted disk images.
* Free version creates up to 300mb encrypted drives.
* Better intergates with the USB drive & home PC in general.

Pavv.

0 votes

S

I wonder why your site is no longer working correctly for me? I cant even see what I was typing in half this comment box.

I’m using the most recent Firefox, and turned off my blocking plugins just in case they were conflicting with something. But your actual main content is only about 3″ wide as far as what I’m able to see. The rest of the main content is hidden under the gray on the right, adn there’s a horizontal scrollbar on the bottom, but it doesn’t help to make any part of the main content hidden under the gray right side become visible.

Am I the only one that it’s messed up for? It’s doing it on post pages, as well as on the home page.

0 votes

Aibek

Thank you so much for the feedback. I am aware about the issue and working on it at the very moment.

Meanwhile you still can view the website if you reduce your text size (Ctrl+-)

0 votes

Abiboka

I use some VPN services to protect the data. I’m a little bit paranoiac like the author of the article. So I have decided to pay a little to protect my private data from unauthorized access. I’m using for a while http://www.strongvpn.com and can say that it works

0 votes

patrick

Can trucrypt encrypt file on an external hardrive up to 1tb?