December 1, 2022

Binary Blogger

Are you a 1 or a 0? News, Thoughts and Reviews

Encrypting Your Data with TrueCrypt

6 min read

With the ever expanding cloud services and mobility, your data is becoming more at risk to being lost or stolen. From my previous post about cloud storage locations, specifically Dropbox, even if you think your data you are storing is secure, think again. So it comes back to personal accountability and responsibility to ultimately ensure your information and files are protected to the maximum.

This is where data encryption comes in and should be a far wider practice by people, but unfortunately it’s not. So I wanted to layout how easy it is and how you can apply this to your data at home, work and in the cloud. There are many tools out there can can encrypt your data, but I am going to focus on what I think is the best and easiest tool to use called TrueCrypt.

TrueCrypt is a free, open source tool and is very, very powerful. I am going to focus on what the normal everyday individual with no deep IT experience would use and skip over some of the advanced features which are more intended for server engineers and security expert. TrueCrypt can provide you with encryption in a few ways

  • You can create an encrypted container, like a folder, where you copy things in an out of. This container itself is mobile so you can move it between computers and store it in the cloud. This is primarily what I use because it’s so flexible.
  • Another feature is to fully encrypt USB devices like thumb drives or hard drives. This feature only allows the drive to be read at all when you have TrueCrypt and your passphrase to access it. This is very useful for USB thumb drives, which get lost very easily. If you lose it, no worries that the data on it will be read. In fact there are advanced features to completely hide the fact that the device is encrypted. So when an unauthorized person plugs it in, Windows or whatever will say it cant be read and needs to be formatted. They do, your data is wiped and they get a free USB drive but not your data.
  • The other big feature is full PC encryption. This is mainly for laptops. You can encrypt the whole laptop and they cant even boot the PC without the passphrase. Most companies, the smart ones anyway, have laptop encryption only for the lazy, irresponsible laptop owners who leave them in clear view in their backseat when they go to the mall and cry when their car is broken into and the laptop is gone.
    • As a side security note, if any company allows or tolerates employees storing Personally Identifiable Information, SSNs, credit card numbers on their laptops in the first place… well, then you are asking to be front page news and not enough employees are let go because of this. I used to work for a very, very large bank, I worked with SSNs and million dollars transactions, all in apps and servers in the bank. If my laptop was audited and they found an SSN on my PC in a log file or text file, instant termination no argument. But they cared more about the integrity of the business and privacy of their customers than the convenience of the employees or contractors. My point being, in a business setting, if you have proper data security governance in place, losing a laptop should be close to a non-issue and more of an annoyance, much like losing a cell phone. 

TrueCrypt it self can be downloaded and installed in a few different ways. You can download a copy to each machine you are using it on, put a mobile copy on a USB drive, or embed it in the USB itself. The steps below are doing the simple download a copy to each computer.

I will lay out how to setup an encrypted container with TrueCrypt.

After you download and install TrueCrypt you will see the main screen. This is where you mount your containers, assign drive letters, and manage your encryption keys.

To create a new container click – Create Volume

You will then be asked what kind of encryption you want to create, for this example we will make a standard file container.

TrueCrypt is all about security to the maximum level. The next option is about the ultimate security. It even has verbiage about extortion if you have to give up your password. TrueCrypt is designed to keep you data safe at pretty much all costs. We will just do the standard. 
Now that you have setup the container you now move into the encryption and password. AES is fine,but you can read up on the stronger ones. The stronger the encryption the more lag there will be on reading and writing. 
After this step you will be asked where to store your container, no big deal. Next is entering your password. Now this is the most important piece to your container as this is the keys to the kingdom. This should be something you can remember but strong enough to not get cracked. Because if you lose this password, you will not be able to recover it. Here is the response off TrueCrypt’s website around lost passwords –

“…The only way to recover your files is to try to “crack” the password or the key, but it could take thousands or millions of years (depending on the length and quality of the password or keyfiles, on the software/hardware performance, algorithms, and other factors). If you find this hard to believe, consider the fact that even the FBI was not able to decrypt a TrueCrypt volume after a year of trying.”

Now that you have all the settings configured you need to set the size. Now this is important because what it will do is create the container the size you set it at. It will not grow as you add files to it, so plan accordingly. Make sure it’s small enough to be copied to USB drives and big enough to store what you intend to store.
Once that is set you set the encryption key and create the container. When you get you this screen move your mouse over the window to set the key. The more you move the mouse the more random the key gets. After a minute or two create the container. Sit back and watch the progress bar. Depending on how big the container and the type of encryption you used this process may be quick or several minutes or longer.
When it’s all done you will see the file in your directory and it will look like a plain file with a big size. There is no easy way to tell what that file is, how it’s encrypted and with what, but you know.
So now you have your own encrypted vault to store your goodies in. So how do you use it.
Open TrueCrypt. Select the Drive letter you want it assigned to.
In the middle by the key icon, select the file which is your vault and then click the Mount button.
You will be prompted for your password and after you enter it sucessfully, your vault now looks like a separate disk drive to your computer. Drag and drop files into it as you would any other file container.
When you are done, open up TrueCrypt, it will be in your task bar by the clock, and select the drive, click Dismount. 
That’s it.
It looks like a lot of steps but it’s really straight forward and clean to do. The only catch is to never forget your password, otherwise you are up a creek.
In my opinion there is no reason not to use encrypted containers on USB drives at a minimum, especially if you store work docs, personal docs, photos or anything else that would be bad if you lost. Cloud services are proving they are not to be trusted with your data and the only person that should be relied on to keep your data safe is you and you only. There are tools out there to help you do this and guys like me to help you realize this and help you get there.
End of Line.
@binaryblogger
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