Do you worry about your data from being stolen if you lost your USB thumb drive or other portable data storage? Here is a free solution.

Try TrueCrypt.

TrueCrypt is an open sourced project providing a simple solution to encrypt your USB data (or actually data in any other movable or internal storage of your computer). The encrypted data container (let’s call it a container file) can be treated as an ordinary drive in your computer. This program mounts the container file as an ordinary drive. The container file can be made into a single standalone file or cover an entire hard disk partition on your local or remote drive.

To illustrate this, here is a screen capture of how I mapped my 68.4GB container file on one of my hard disks as P drive. After mapping, I can open my P drive as if it were an ordinary drive to store and retrieve files. All the files that are stored in this container file are encrypted.

TrueCrypt Drive Mapping Screen Demo

The file container can be named with any name and any extension. So you can disguise a container file by naming it something like “song.mp3” or “picture.jpg” to make your container look, at a glance, as if it were just an mp3 or jpg file. This serves as a concealment to hide the true identity of this container file. When ordinary people browse your hard disk, they may not notice that it is an encrypted TrueCrypt container file.

You can also copy or move this container file to any storage place you want. This Container File Mapped as P Driveenhances the mobility of your data.

The encryption used to protect your data is AES, which is one of the strongest encryption methods in contemporary encryption technology.

The only price you need to pay is to manage your password carefully to access this drive. For instance, do not disclose your password to others, and choose a password that is difficult to guess. Also, use a longer password with a combination of characters, digits, and symbols.

There is an extra feature of this software that you should not miss. TrueCrypt offers the option to create a hidden volume in your container file. This is actually an invisible volume in your encrypted drive that you cannot normally view. If create this hidden volume with a different access password, when you mount your container file to your system using this different password, the mounted volume will unveil the hidden volume to you instead of the normal volume, allowing access to this hidden volume.

One reason you may need this extra hidden volume is that if someone were to force you to open the encrypted drive, you can reveal the contents within the normal drive without revealing the truly important contents inside the hidden volume.

Is TureCrypt portable? Yes or no. On one hand, it can be run without installing in a computer, allowing you to map your file in any computer that that does not have this software installed. However, you must have administrator rights on that computer in order to mount and decrypt the container file. Therefore, you cannot bring your encrypted file to a public computer and decrypt the container files there.

There are similar open sourced solutions, such asFreeOTFE. This software offers an extra feature of mapping your container file to a preferred drive letter that you assigned beforehand. However, the user interface is less appealing.

We’ll talk more about installing portable data encryption solutions without administrator rights. Stay tuned to this blog.

If you know any similar software that can do this job, leave me message here.

Tags: USB Data Encryption