TrueCrypt: A Free Opensource On-the-fly Disk Encryption tool

Usage of file / disk encryption has been long prevalent – but never like that of the present times. With the explosive growth of the internet and consequently ever-increasing risk of hacking, protection of one’s private / sensitive data has gained utmost importance. There are hundreds of methods of encryption which can be used for this purpose – all with varying degrees of flexibility – but broadly they can be categorised into File based or Disk based methods.

TrueCrypt is a disk-based encryption system which allows you to create & maintain on-the-fly encrypted volumes. On-the-fly means that the data is automatically encrypted / decrypted right before loading & saving – without any human intervention. In effect, you allot a storage area on your hard drive to TrueCrypt, which then creates a dynamic encrypted volume there that acts like a separate drive. Whatever data you write to this drive get automatically encrypted. Likewise it is auto-decrypted when you try to load it.

The process is so transparent and quick that you don’t even feel the presence of such a system. However, such drives are protected by master password(s) / key file(s) specified by you and no data stored on such an encrypted volume can be read (decrypted) without using the correct password / keyfile(s).

The advantages are apparent immediately. First and foremost, you won’t have to remember to encrypt your confidential data separately (file-by-file). Whatever you write to the volume is automatically encrypted. Secondly, files can be copied to and from a mounted TrueCrypt volume just like they are copied to / from any normal disk (for example, by simple drag-and-drop operations).

I’d used similar licensed software earlier on and a notable one among them was Stealth Disk. However, TrueCrypt beats all of them hands down any day as it’s a completely free product and it offers a far wider array of features and stronger encryption algorithms.

Apart from that, the encrypted volumes can be made to be portable or created directly on removable storage like USB flash drives. This greatly aids you in carrying sensitive data around, guaranteeing that it can’t be misused if the flash drive gets stolen / falls in the wrong hands.

TrueCrypt even has a Linux version, making it an almost platform independent solution. Soon to be announced – TrueCrypt for Mac OS-X.

TrueCrypt main interface

Features:

Among the prominent features of TrueCrypt are …

  • The ability to create a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk
  • Encryption of an entire hard disk partition or a storage device such as USB flash drive
  • Automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent encryption process
  • Two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password. Now this is a really ingenious feature. They’ve taken into account the fact that you might be held at gunpoint and made to reveal your password to your TrueCrypt volume. For this they allow you to create a hidden volume inside an outside volume. It’s the hidden volume that contains your actual data and is enclosed in an outer volume along with some decoy files to throw your attacker off. In case you’re forced to reveal the password – you open up only the outer volume to your antagonist and thus lead him to the decoys. Your actual data is still safe.Moreover, it is impossible to identify a TrueCrypt volume. Until decrypted, a TrueCrypt volume appears to consist of nothing more than random data (it does not contain any kind of “signature”). Therefore, it is impossible to prove that a file, a partition or a device is a TrueCrypt volume or that it has been encrypted.
  • Support for a wide variety of encryption algorithms like AES-256, Blowfish (448-bit key), CAST5, Serpent, Triple DES, and Twofish for encrypting the volumes as well as the ability to re-encrypt a volume with another algorithm at a later point of time.

This is one really useful tool to have in your collection …any day any time.

Download TrueCrypt and try it out … today !

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