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Protecting Your Files - Encryption for the Common User

How to prevent prying eyes from seeing your sensitive documents.

Steve Smith, host of your Technology Questions Answered, demonstrates how to protect your files through the careful use of encryption.

Episode #1-27 released on April 3, 2011

Today, we live in a world of prying eyes, criminals and black mailers. These people want your most secret documents, and personal information. This is why encryption has become a normal part of our everyday. Without knowing it, your already using encryption. It is everywhere, in one form, or another. However, there is a difference between using it, and being aware how to use it, and how it works. Today, I intend to show you all, once and for all, how to encrypt documents, and how to hide them in plain sight. You'll learn encryption, stenography, and about hidden partitions, in this episode of your Technology Questions Answered.

So, let's talk about what encryption is. Encryption, comes from the word encrypt, which shares it roots with cryptology. cryptology is the encoding of information in a matter unreadable to any prying eyes. You need a decoder index to decode encrypted information. This is useful when you need to protect documents that contain sensitive or classified information.

So what do you need to encrypt your documents and hard-drive in your computer? My suggestion, TrueCrypt. You may need a partition editor for the stenography portion of this show, but it is not required if you have Windows Vista or 7. I'll be running the demonstration in Windows XP. We will start with encrypting a file, then we will encrypt a parition. Note : Please consider defragmenting your hard-drive before attempting to create a new partition.

Encrypting a file

  1. To encrypt a file, open TrueCrypt.
  2. You'll have to create an encrypted file container. Create Volume.
  3. Select Standard TrueCrypt volume. Click Next.
  4. Select File, Name the container anything you want like demo.tc. Click Save, then Next.
  5. When encrypting, I suggest you use AES encryption. Click Next.
  6. Enter any size you may need for the encryption process, I suggest you go a bit bigger just in case you add data to the file. Then click next.
  7. Volume Password, make it as complicated as you can remember, and if you write it down, hide it somewhere no one will find it. Then click next.
  8. Volume format, unless your file is more than 4GB you don't need to use NTFS. Move your mouse around randomly, then click format.
  9. Click exit, and your done.

Encrypting a partition, and creating a hidden partition.

  1. Open TrueCrypt
  2. Click Create Volume
  3. Select Encrypt a non-system partition or drive, click next.
  4. select encrypt a non-system partition/drive, click next
  5. select hidden TrueCrypt volume, click next
  6. select normal mode, click next
  7. select device
  8. select the new partition you created, then click ok,
  9. select next
  10. Now your in the outer volume, this is the partition where you will create the plausible deniability, select next
  11. Outer Volume Encryption options, select encryption algorithm, and select hash algorithm, you can leave the defaults there until you've read up on what they mean, then select next
  12. Outer Volume Size, only adjustable if within a file, and in a partition it is fixed in size, select next
  13. create outer volume password, make it long and complicated from others to guess, it can be a phrase or sentence. You can trick dictionary attacks by typing the number or letter to the right, left, top or bottom of the intended key, or using a combination of any of the four directions. Do not share the method to decode your password with anyone, select next, when you have created your password.
  14. select whether you want to store files larger than 4GB, then select next
  15. Outer Volume Format, select the file system type. Note: NTFS is required for all files larger than 4gb, click format
  16. Outer Volume Contents, select open outer volume, copy some files in the drive to create the illusion that these are the files you want to protect, this will create plausible deniability, close the drive window, then select next in TrueCrypt.
  17. Hidden Volume Encryption options, again, select an encryption and hash algorithm, then click next, you may leave the defaults
  18. select the size you need for the hidden volume size, then click next
  19. Hidden Volume Password, create a different password for this hidden volume, using a long complicated password, like I explained for the outer volume, then click next
  20. Hidden Volume Format, select file system, again, NTFS is required for files larger than 4GB, then select format
  21. Read the Warning, and read the instructions on their site, my show notes, or listen carefully for what I say a little later for writing to the outer volume, and protecting the hidden volume, click OK
  22. The Hidden Volume is now created, click Exit, your finished creating the hidden volume.

Accessing the encrypted file container, drive, or hidden partition.

  1. Open TrueCrypt
  2. Select File
  3. Select any available drive letter
  4. Mount
  5. Enter password, click ok.
  6. It is now accessible as if it was a real USB jump drive.
  7. All you need to do is drag and drop any documents you want to encrypt in the file container, then in the TrueCrypt window, Dismount to lock down the file.
  8. If your accessing an encrypted file container or drive with a hidden partition, and not the hidden partition itself, you need to use mount, not automount, then mount options, then enter the information for the hidden partition, and select protect hidden volume against damage caused by writing to outer volume. Otherwise you may damage the hidden partition.

Want one good reason for why using a hidden partition is useful, plausible deniability. If someone, like a blackmailers, police agencies or courts forces you to reveal your password, you only need to give the password of the external encrypted container, the hidden partition will remain intact and hidden, and if they write to that partition, they will destroy any evidence along with it. This means you will not give any sensitive information that may incriminate you of crimes or actions you may have not done to begin with.

I just want to point one thing out, the stronger the password, the better the chances it survives brute force attacks, even from Government Organisations, because there is no backdoor. This also means, if you lose the password, you will lose the contents. Keep backups of files you need somewhere really safe. And, under no circumstance, reveal your password, not even to your loved ones. People are incapable of keeping secrets, but encrypted files don't utter a single word.

Have a great day, remember to subscribe to my show, either on Youtube, iTunes, Feedburner, or any other web-site your listening to me from, and support my show,if you want, by sending any amount you want to my paypal account, the account address is tqa@zedaxis.net. Thank you all in advance.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Steve Smith | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

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