Protecting Your Computer with Encryption

By StealthNo Comments

These days data security is a necessity, and it’s clear that without security on your computer that you might be asking for a little more than you bargained for if your computer falls into the wrong hands. For many people, simply using a Windows password to log in is not enough. Likewise, this also isn’t enough to stop anyone with a little bit of computer know-how from accessing your data.

The next thing would be to consider Windows built-in encryption. Windows built-in encryption is very basic and unforgiving before Windows Vista, but a little more friendly in newer versions of Windows. The drawbacks to Windows built-in encryption is if you don’t back up your encryption key and Windows crashes, you may be unable to recover your data.

In the modern computing world there are multiple utilities and methods that may be used to encrypt all of your information safely and securely. These utilities include Microsoft BitLocker, which is built into Windows Vista and newer, as well as 3rd party utilities that work on all the “NT” versions of Windows (this encompasses Windows 2000 and newer).

In this blog entry we’ll be covering the basic use of a 3rd party encryption utility, called TrueCrypt. TrueCrypt to encrypt your whole computer. TrueCrypt offers basic functions that will just encrypt your drive, as well as advanced functions such as encrypted file containers and hidden operating systems.

I understand there are many tutorials and information about encrypting your computer with TrueCrypt, however I am writing my own as a start to a more complex use of this software and would prefer to have anyone reading on the same page. This information is based on version 7.1a.

WARNING: The information here is for educational and research purposes only. YOU are responsible for any changes YOU make to YOUR computer and for any trouble (legal or otherwise) YOU may get in to by using encryption.

ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR DATA BEFORE MAKING CHANGES TO YOUR COMPUTER

The first thing to using any software would be to obtain and install the software you would like to use. TrueCrypt may be downloaded from their website, www.truecrypt.org. Simply download the Windows installer and run it on your computer. You will need administrator rights to install this software. When the installation is complete, start TrueCrypt to get started.

You will also need a blank CD or DVD. In the process of encrypting your drive you will be required to create a recovery CD which includes your key (encrypted with your password) in case something goes wrong during the encryption process or down the road if Windows crashes and you need to recover your data.

Let’s get started. These instructions assume you know how to click Next between pages of the wizard. If you can’t figure this out, hard drive encryption may not be for you.

  1. Open the TrueCrypt window if it is not already open.
  2. From the Tools menu, select Encrypt System Drive
  3. Select “Encrypt the Windows system partition” if any of the following applies to you:
    • You have more than 1 operating system installed.
    • Your computer has a recovery partition.
    • You have a separate partition that needs to be accessed outside of Windows.
  4. Otherwise, select “Encrypt the whole drive”
  5. Select single-boot if your computer only has 1 operating system, otherwise, select multi-boot.
  6. If desired you may select a different encryption algorithm or hash algorithm, otherwise the default is fine.
  7. The password you create here will be the one used to decrypt your key, which decrypts your information. This password should be strong, consisting of as many characters you can remember and contain letters, numbers, mixed case, and special characters. MAKE SURE YOU REMEMBER THIS PASSWORD. THERE IS NO WAY TO RESET IT OR RECOVER YOUR INFORMATION IF YOU LOSE IT.
  8. To collect random data move your mouse around the TrueCrypt window as much as possible and as random as possible. If your mouse leaves the window, it will not collect those movements. The longer you move your mouse, the better.
  9. It will display the keys generated, simply click next.
  10. For the Rescue Disk, you must create this. Select a location to save the CD image, click next to have it created and saved.
  11. Burn the ISO image to a CD or DVD using your favorite burning software.. Remember, this must be done as an image, not a file. TrueCrypt will verify the creation of this CD.
  12. Select a wipe mode for your drive if desired. Remember that selecting a wipe mode will greatly slow down the encryption process later.
  13. Click Next all the way through. Remove the CD and restart your computer when prompted.

STORE YOUR TRUECRYPT RESCUE CD IN A SAFE AND SECURE PLACE. YOU WILL NEED IT IF SOMETHING EVER GOES WRONG OR IF WINDOWS FAILS TO BOOT.

TrueCrypt will now verify your computer is ready to be encrypted. It will ask for your password during the restart process. When Windows comes back up and is logged in, the TrueCrypt wizard will automatically continue and begin encrypting your hard drive. You may continue working during this process. The size of your hard drive depends on how long it will take. This processed may be paused and resumed as needed.

Once complete you’ll be prompted for your password everytime the computer is started. No one will be able to access your files or information without your decryption password. In the event your computer does not boot, you may use the TrueCrypt rescue disc to decrypt your hard drive for recovering your information.

If you need to decrypt your drive, this can be done through the TrueCrypt program by selecting “Decrypt system drive” from the Tools menu, or using your rescue CD.

Operating Systems, Security

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