When I said I would be active with this blog, not even I took me seriously. I couldn’t resist sharing something really cool, and Twitter just wasn’t good enough.
A long long time ago, I made a mention to some of my IRC friends that I needed a secure way to store some of the files on my computer from prying eyes. One of them suggested TrueCrypt. I took it into consideration but didn’t think too much of it; I was rather lazy to deal with anything fancy like that. Some time later the name came up again and I redownloaded it, but I only explored it minimally. You get the idea. It was intimidating.
An actual need for encryption was brought up again by a new router with ReadyShare, which would give me more room on my desk and access to my external hard drive from any computer on the network at the cost of “access to my external hard drive from any computer on the network.” I didn’t think twice about it: I really didn’t want just anyone to access my external and I didn’t want to go through the entire volume to figure out what to encrypt, what to keep out there and what to dispose of entirely, so I just kept it off the network. Tonight, however, I decided to finally satisfy my curiosity about TrueCrypt once and for all.
I installed the program and got it up and running with no problem. Not unexpected, and that’s cool, but the file encryption is what I’m really interested in. The start-up screen is familiar to me; I’ve been here countless times but I’ve only once clicked around on it. Visual overload is the main factor of confusion in using this program so I decided to save myself a few hours by checking out the conveniently placed tutorial on their website. Oh goody, I’ve been clicking the wrong places the entire time.
The tutorial makes you realize that the program is very straightforward with just a slight learning curve. Before you can encrypt anything, you need to make a volume (a place to store the files you want encrypted) through the “Create Volume” button. Flash drives, hard drives, CD/DVD drives and anything else that stores data for a computer are examples of volumes, for those who are not familiar with the term. Once I hit that button, I had the realization that TrueCrypt doesn’t just encrypt files, but can encrypt anything from clusters to entire system volumes. I just wanted to encrypt something small and anything more than just a few files seemed overly complicated, so I stuck to the default and moved on.
Now I just make a file for the volume..
Select my encryption and hash algorithms..
Put in the size I want..
Add an optional key file..
and.. format. The file is created.
Okay, so now what? I had a newly-created file with nothing in it, so I went back to the trusty tutorial. In it, you’re told to select an available drive from the list, select your encrypted volume using the “Select File” button and click “Mount.” In the next popup, you put in your password, select your key file (if you have one) and click “OK.” To be quite honest, even with the mention of volumes and mounting, it didn’t cross my mind that TrueCrypt actually mounts your now-decrypted files to a virtual drive on your computer. All you need to do from here is double-click the drive from the list (or go to it from your computer’s drive select) and treat it like any removable media drive. True to its slogan, TrueCrypt encrypts and decrypts everything on the drive on-the-fly! As soon as you put a file on it, the file is encrypted into the volume and is never on the disk in an unencrypted form.
This program is a lot easier than I thought it would be, and it can even create hidden volumes and hidden OSes. Even better, it’s free and open-source! I’ll be sure to jump on it next time one of my friends recommends something, because this program is long overdue.