VeraCrypt, the successor of Truecrypt is a free, multi-platform, on-the-fly encryption program similar to the Microsoft,s BitLocker. The former, surprisingly, works on various platforms including Windows, MacOS, Linux and Raspbian, unlike the latter.
The tool offers numerous features to create encrypted file containers, encrypt volumes or partitions, or encrypt the whole operating system, etc. VeraCrypt also adds advanced security to its features and immunizes various bugs found in TrueCrypt, making it secure against brute-force and other types of modern attacks. Sounds interesting? Then let’s read on.
VeraCrypt is an encryption program which performs several different functions.
Your Simple Straightforward Encrypted Volume
The most basic VeraCrypt implementation simply uses encrypted volumes, which are just folders with unbreakable passwords. These folders are only accessible by mounting them as a “virtual encrypted disk” which mounts just like a real disk. Stay with me, people.
Encrypted Volumes Within Volumes
The next level up, in terms of difficulty, are the volumes within volumes. You place the really sensitive stuff in a VeraCrypt volume which is then encrypted and placed inside another encrypted VeraCrypt volume. The one with the sensitive stuff is hidden from view, so if necessary, you can give up the password to the outer volume and nobody will see the one you’re really trying to hide.
This is called “plausible deniability.” You can also use this concept to encrypt and hide an entire operating system (which is outside the scope of this article).
Encrypt a Whole Hard Drive Partition Or Storage Device
If you really want to go all encryption gangbusters, then the one to go for is to encrypt an entire partition of your hard drive. Alternatively, encrypt a storage device such as an external hard-drive or a USB stick. This is not something I have experimented with a whole lot (although I intend to soon, and I will write it up when I do).
Start With The Basics
As always with a new program, you need to start with the easiest part to get a feel for how it works. And obviously don’t put anything important inside the encrypted volume for the moment, in case you mess up.
VeraCrypt is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. I will be using it today on my trusty Macbook. The software is also open-source if you fancy poking around in the source code.
Download & Install
Go to the download page and install the version for your operating system. In the case of MacOS, you also need to download and install a small (7.5MB) companion software app called OSXFUSE. The link is on the VeraCrypt page.
One thing worth mentioning here. Never ever install VeraCrypt from another website. Always install the version that is on the VeraCrypt website. Taking one from another site could mean installing a compromised copy of the program or an obsolete copy.
When the software is installed, click on it in your software folder (in the case of MacOS, “Applications”).
Create a New Volume
When you open it up, you will see a button which says “Create a New Volume.” Click on that.
Create An Encrypted File Container
We’re doing the first option today so click on that.
Standard Or Hidden?
The next option is whether you want your standard volume or the hidden one (as I mentioned above). We’re doing easy today so standard please.
It is now asking you to “select file.” Wait, what? Well, the “file” is the encrypted volume, but obviously you haven’t made it yet. So you can’t select what doesn’t exist.
So click the button and go to the area of your computer where you want to make the encrypted volume. This volume can be moved anywhere you want later, so don’t worry. It won’t be tied to wherever you choose during the setup process. Just use your desktop. Give the volume a name (this can be changed later).
OK now you have to decide which encryption strength you are going with. If you drop down the menu, you will see various options, but the industry standard is AES. It is what VeraCrypt automatically defaults to, and as it says, it is used by the US Government to protect Top Secret classified information. So I guess that makes it good enough for your home recipes then.
Leave the “Hash Algorithm” as it is and click “Next.”
This is an important one. You have to decide how big the encrypted volume needs to be. This has to be done right at the start because you can’t change it later. If you decide later the volume needs to be bigger or smaller, you would need to delete the volume and start over.
Think about what you would be using the volume for. Video? Files? Images? Audio? Then decide how much you need. Obviously you would need the space on your hard drive to accommodate the file as well.
Advantages of VeraCrypt
Below are some of its most advantageous features:
- On-the-fly encryption: The data is magically encrypted right before it’s saved and decrypted just before it’s used without any user interference.
- No time constraints: The process of encryption or decryption can be interrupted anytime and can be resumed from the point it was stopped.
- Hidden volumes: The encrypted data can contain a hidden encrypted volume, which is hard to search or identify.
- Portable mode: The tool can run in portable mode, allowing you to carry it on a flash drive and run without installing on a system.
DISADVANTAGES OF VERACRYPT CONTAINER
VeraCrypt containers can’t be compressed (encrypted data is seemingly random), so transferring a single large file can be difficult, especially if the transfer process is prone to interruption. If your massive 14TB fails or is interrupted midway through, you may have to start over
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