Sunday, October 21, 2012

TrueCrypt Encryption Program/Software Review

Along with the encryption program that I wrote about last week (Axcrypt), I also use another free (open-source) encryption program called TrueCrypt.

What I use TrueCrypt for is to encrypt an entire partition, storage device, or to create a virtual encrypted disk within a file that mounts as a real disk. For Windows laptops/netbooks, I use TrueCrypt to encrypt the entire Windows partition (as well as any partition containing data files). I find TrueCrypt to be very useful because if I happen to lose your laptop/desktop (or it is stolen), all the information on my hard drive is password protected and even if the person removes the hard drive and attempts to read the information as a secondary hard drive off another machine, without TrueCrypt and the password, the contents of that hard drive are virtually irretrievable. This is perfect when saving/storing personal files like tax slips, etc. when I didn't get a chance to encrypt the file individually.

After the partition, storage device, or virtual encrypted disk is unencrypted, the files are completely accessible to anyone who has access to the device whether on the computer itself or via the network. For example, once an entire storage device is unencrypted (such as an external USB drive), if this drive is on the network (and is shared), any device/computer will have access to the contents of this external USB drive as long as not unmounted or the computer is not shutdown/rebooted. The same thing holds true to encrypting the computer's entire hard drive. Once the computer boots up and the initial TrueCrypt password is entered, the files are completely accessible to anyone who has access to the files on the computer (if these files are shared or these files are accessed by a third party program (or person) via the internet). This means that even if you encrypt your entire hard drive but you don't configure your router, computer's firewall or fileshare properties correctly, the contents of your files might still wind up in someone else's hands. If these files are not encrypted (such as using Axcrypt), the person will have access not only to the file but will have access to the contents of the file.

TrueCrypt is available for Windows, MacOSX, and Linux. I've only used it on the Windows platform (Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7) and I've never had any issues with it.

Using TrueCrypt or any encryption program on the entire hard drive or on an entire partition does slow down the computer a little bit but I've never noticed any real difference. Any difference is in speed is under 1 second in my opinion (for example, launching Microsoft Word might take a fraction of a second longer but I would say that most people would hardly notice any difference).

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