Ok! first of all let me explain that what TrueCrypt is all about for all the people that don’t know about this fantastic piece of software. TrueCrypt is a security and privacy software that enforces your data privacy using on-the-fly transparent disk encryption(OTFE). What OTFE means is that, it supports the creation of virtual containers that stores all the files/data that you want to secure and are encrypted with strong encryption algorithms. Data stored in the containers can easily be accessed (Read/Write) by mounting the desired container as a local disk. It appears as any other normal disk drive in your My Computer and all the data written to that disk is automatically encrypted and data read from the virtual disk is automatically de-encrypted on the fly in RAM. But the true beauty of it lies in the fact that all of this happens in the background automatically (hence the word transparency from the perspective of the user). The virtual disk that appears in the My Computer after mounting a container behaves as any normal disk drive on your system and can even be shared on the network. The only difference from your normal disk drives is that data will be automatically encrypted when written on the drive. You can use a file or even a physical partition on your HDD as a container.
These are only the core features that I mentioned, but it supports a lot of advanced features that separates it from the rest of the encryption software that are available in the market such as:
- Support of hidden volumes
- Advanced encryption algorithms such as AES-256, Serpent, Two Fish and cascading of these algorithms for the true paranoids among us!
- Can be easily used in portable mode without requiring installation on the host computer
- Use of key-files as passwords in conjunction with the actual password
- Benchmark the efficiency of different encryption algorithms on your system to find out what suites you the most
- Backup critical area’s of the the container that may useful in case some corruption occurs to the container
- Supports hot keys for all the common operations such as mount/dismount a volume, show/hide the main window etc.
- Windows Explorer integration (optional)
- Supported platforms are Windows, Linux and Mac OS X
- And many other features…
A few days back TrueCrypt 5 was introduced that introduced some significant new features. Most powerful new feature that is introduced is encryption of system volumes with pre-boot authentication. Now you can encrypt even your windows partitions and maximize your security and privacy. Data transfer speed of to/from virtual disk has been increased up to 100%! because of the use of pipelined I/O operations and now the Linux version of the application also supports GUI.
I have used quite a few OTFE encryption software in the past but in the end I settled on this one. Reason is a simple one because no other encryption software supports all these features that I mentioned in a single product and that includes both free and paid offerings. The closest competitor that I can see is BestCrypt that offers similar feature-set but is a shareware product and will set you back $59.50(US). More importantly this is a closed source program in contrast to TrueCrypt which is open source, and where anyone can review the source code of the software to ensure that there is not any intentional/unintentional backdoor or security hole in the software. This is not possible with the closed source programs and we have to trust the vendor/developer that is providing the software, This is an important aspect that should be considered when evaluating a security product particularly an encryption software.
I cannot stress it more that anyone concerned about his/her data security/privacy should use TrueCrypt to do so. Particularly, after the introduction of TrueCrypt 5 with the support of system volume encryption this product is even more attractive as compared to it’s freeware and shareware rivals. Oh! and I almost forgot that if you create a new container make sure that you remember the password that you assigned. In case you forgot the password and there was some critical data stored in the container then you will not be able access it because there is absolutely no backdoor or loophole at all, and also the strong encryption algorithms(AES, Serpent, Two Fish) it employs cannot be cracked by any method known so far. Of course that’s the reason it is such a powerful product. You can download the TrueCrypt5 from the official website.
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