Many modern operating systems provide ways to secure user data through encryption that’s built into the operating system or can be enabled by the user. Whether you use an Apple, Microsoft, or Linux computer, there is usually a way to encrypt the entire hard drive. Encrypting the entire hard drive prevents unauthorized users from access data on the computer in case the computer is ever lost or stolen. But what about files that you need to carry with you on a thumb drive or transfer to someone over email?
Luckily there is a great free open-source encryption tool that you can download and use for the purpose of keeping your sensitive files safe. This tool will allow you to create an encrypted container in which you can put your sensitive files for storage. The encrypted container can then be transported on a USB thumb drive, email, or any other way. If anyone intercepts this encrypted file container, they will not be able to access the files it contains without the password.
Truecrypt is a free encryption utility that has been out for years and has withstood the test of time. Although the Truecrypt project was recently discontinued, which means there will be no future updates, it is still one of the most popular encryption utilities used by security professionals throughout the world. The Truecrypt project recently underwent an independent audit and was found to contain no backdoors or major flaws.
The latest stable version of Truecrypt can be found on a repository at the Gibson Research Corporation (https://www.grc.com/misc/truecrypt/truecrypt.htm) along with more information about the project and how to use the tool.
Here’s why using encrypted file containers is a great way to store and transport your sensitive files:
- Convenience – an encrypted file container is a single file which contains all of your sensitive data. Once you create and open the container, you can put as many files into it as you want. As long as you allot the right amount of disk space for the container when it’s being created, you can store hundreds or even thousands of documents, picture, or other files in one place. Transporting this data involves moving a single container file.
- Interoperability – There are versions of Truecrypt available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. This means that can move files securely from one operating systems to a different one. Files put in the container on a Windows computer can be transferred to a Macintosh and opened with ease.
- Security – The top notch security provided by Truecrypt should not be overlooked. There are many encryption programs on the market which provide various levels of security, however Truecrypt’s independent audit gives it that additional credibility. As long as strong passwords are used when creating the encrypted container and other security hygiene practices are followed, Truecrypt’s encryption is essentially unbreakable with modern technology.
- Strong Encryption – As of the writing of this article, Truecrypt uses industry standard encryption. The tool also gives you the option to encrypt the files multiple times using different encryption ciphers. Although this practice is not necessary in most situations, it’s good to know that it is available for those of us that prefer high grades of protection.
If you do decide to create encrypted file containers with Truecrypt, make sure to keep a copy of your password in a secure location in case you forget the password. If you password is ever lost or forgotten, then so will be your access to the files in the encrypted file container.