TrueCrypt

truecrypt

Something that I haven’t given a huge amount of thought to in the past is the subject of encryption.This was until the subject was bought up today by a customer of mine who was considering the purchase of a USB Flash Drive but explained it was to replace one that he had mislaid which unfortunately contained a number of confidential files.

USB Flash Drives aren’t really like floppy discs of days gone by; with a floppy disc you were limited to the amount of data you could possibly lose if you misplaced it.A modern day 32GB drive would equate to the equivalent of almost 23,000 floppy discs worth of information precariously stored on a keyring sized device; this represents a huge amount of data which could easily end up in the wrong hands.

The need for encryption doesn’t stop with flash pens; those that hold particularly sensitive information on their computers may like to encrypt a particular file or drive, so that if the machine is stolen the data contained within will be rendered essentially useless.

As a result of these valid concerns I have been testing encryption software with the intention that I could recommend a suitable application for Click readers in order that they can protect any confidential data.I settled on TrueCrypt which is an open source application that can be obtained via a tiny 2.5MB download free of charge from www.truecrypt.org.

Whilst TrueCrypt is incredibly easy to install, I found that things quickly start to get a little trickier once you actually start using the application and as such I would recommend skimming over the rather thick user guide before getting started.The application has been designed by people passionate about security and this is evident in the fact that you are actually given options as to the way you would like things encrypted and the strength of the cipher.

Some other applications that I tried didn’t get you as involved in the process but as a result they also didn’t give you such a high level of control.I personally quite enjoyed the ‘Plausible Deniability’ feature which allows you to set up a dummy password which would unlock the drive but give a false indication that there was in fact nothing stored on it.The idea behind this is that should you be held at gunpoint (!) or possibly more dangerously, forced by the wife, to reveal your secrets then you could easily get yourself off the hook.

You have several choices as to how you encrypt your data.You can of course completely encrypt the drive so that you have to supply a password to access any of your files but additionally you are able to create a smaller encrypted virtual partition.Setting up an encrypted partition means you can use the drive normally for files that you don’t need protecting but then store any confidential information in the smaller, encrypted partition.

When working with Flash Drives you have the option of installing a small decrypting application so that you can then read the files on any other machine; you simply insert the flash drive in to the machine, enter your password and your files are then visible and ready to be worked on.

As a word of warning, there is no workaround should you happen to lose your password; once your files are encrypted they are going to stay that way until the correct password is used to unlock them.You could attempt to circumvent the password by setting an application in motion to brute force crack the encryption but this could take hundreds, thousands or even millions of years depending on the level of protection employed.Don’t say you haven’t been warned!

 

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

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