TrueCrypt: Encrypt Your Data The Easy Way

Everyone has files that they don’t want other to see. It may be a document consisting of all your login passwords, your bank account information or the romance photos/videos (oops…) that you want to keep out of your wife/husband’s sight. In case you are wondering how to encrypt the files/folders/entire hard drive and keep it safe from prying eyes, here is an easy method.

TrueCrypt is a free open-source disk encryption software for Windows Vista/XP, Mac OS X, and Linux. What it does is to create a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk. You can use it to

  • encrypt files with sensitive content
  • encrypt an entire partition or storage device such as USB flash drive or hard drive
  • encrypt a partition or drive where Windows is installed. This will prevent people from booting up your laptop in the event that it is stolen.

In this tutorial, I will illustrate the installation and configuration of TrueCrypt on a Linux machine (to be exact, Ubuntu Gutsy). The procedure will be the same for Windows and Mac OSX.

Download TrueCrypt from http://www.truecrypt.org/downloads.php. Choose your installer format. Since I am using Ubuntu, I selected Ubuntu – x86 (.deb) from the Linux dropdown box.

Save the tar file to your home folder. Extract it using Archive Manager. You should find a truecrypt_5.1a-0_i386.deb file inside the extracted folder.

Double click to install the application.

Open up the terminal (Application -> Accessories -> Terminal), type

truecrypt

The main window will pop up.

truecrypt-main-window.jpg

Create a new file volume

Press ‘Create Volume‘ to open up a new window.

Check the button beside “Create a standard TrueCrypt volume“. If you do not want your file volume to be visible, select “Create a hidden TrueCrypt volume“. Click Next.

truecrypt-create-file-volume.jpg

In the next window, select the location of the file volume. If the file does not exists, TrueCrypt will create it for you. To encrypt your USB drive, click “Select Device” and point the path to your USB drive.

truecrypt-file-location.jpg

Specify the file size of the volume. This will determine how much data you can store in the volume. For illustration purpose, I only created a 1 GB file volume.

truecrypt-file-size.jpg

Select the encryption algorithm. I have chosen AES since that is the most widely used encryption algorithm. You can also choose other algorithm such as Twofish and Serpent.

truecrypt-encryption-algorithm

The next step is to create your password. Make sure you choose a strong password that consists of upper case, lower case, number and special characters. TrueCrypt allows you to enter up to 64 characters for your password.

truecrypt-password

For additional protection, you may want to use a keyfile together with your password. A keyfile is a file whose content is combined with a password. Until you key in the correct password and specified the correct keyfile, you won’t be able to mount the encrypted file.

truecrypt-keyfile.jpg

You can use any kind of files as your keyfiles (mp3, jpg, zip or avi) and there is no limitation to how many keyfiles you can use. If you specify a folder, all the files inside the folder will be used as the keyfiles. (Beware: do not lose the keyfiles or modify the header. If TrueCrypt cannot authenticate the keyfile content, you will lose all your encrypted data)

Choose your file format. You only have a choice: FAT format. Click next.

truecrypt-file-format

This is the part where you create the encryption key. Inside the window, move your mouse as randomly as possible. The longer you move, the stronger is the encryption. When you are done, click on the ‘Format‘ button to create the file volume.

truecrypt-encryption-key

When it is done, you should see the “Volume Created” dialog box. Click ‘Exit

truecrypt-volume-created

Mounting and adding files to the volume

Back to the main window, click on the slot 1. In the bottom of the window, under the Volume section, click on the “Select File” and load the filepath to your file volume.

truecrypt-mount-volume.jpg

Click ‘Mount‘. You will be asked to provide authentication.

Now open up your Nautilus, you should see your file volume mounted. You can start transferring your files into the volume.

truecrypt-nautilus.jpg

When you are done, click on the ‘Dismount‘ button to dismount the volume.

Click ‘Exit‘ to close the TrueCrypt window. Note that this does not close down TrueCrypt entirely. To end the session, right click the TrueCrypt icon on the top system bar and select ‘Exit‘.

For easy access to TrueCrypt, you might want to create a launcher on your desktop. Right click your desktop and select “Create Launcher“. Fill in the detail as shown in the screenshot below and click ‘OK‘. You can now see the launcher on your desktop.

truecrypt-launcher.jpg

Enjoy!

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