How to: simple security with Easy Crypt
Add some secret ninja power to your Ubuntu system today with Easy Crypt. With only a right click you can open or close a ‘top secret’ file, protected by military grade encryption (AES 512-bit Whirlpool). Easy Crypt is a cute little menu which brings the power of TrueCrypt to your system tray. No terminal commands necessary.
If you produce or store any personal data on your desktop or notebook that needs privacy, you should set this up (himmm… that’s just about everyone, isn’t it?). It takes only a few minutes and just might save you from financial fraud, divorce, or getting fired. If ever your notebook is lost or home robbed, you’ll be wishing you had secured those precious files. TrueCrypt creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk. The encrypted file system is cross compatible with Linux and Windows, which is advantageous for both portability, and file recovery in case of a system crash. TrueCrypt has been around for a few years, but lacked an easy to use graphical interface on Linux until recent (a slightly more complex GUI is forcefield). I tried using TrueCrypt on Ubuntu in the past, but found it annoying to be entering terminal commands several times a day to access the encrypted file. I find Easy Crypt to be a speedy, practical, and easy to use interface on a daily basis.
With the basic Easy Crypt setup, your locked files are saved as a hidden file in your user directory, located at /home/username/.easycrypt-crypt (although using the ‘expert’ mode you can choose to use a crypt saved at any location, including a usb key).
What I like about using Easy Crypt, not only is it easy to set up and use, but it’s simple to frequently make a backup copy on a CD-RW or DVD-RW on a regular basis. Just drag and drop the file. You may however wish to rename the backup file to something less descriptive than ‘.easycrypt-crypt’.
You can keep a copy of your important personal documents on CD (insurance documentation, financial spreadsheets, and so on) at another location than your home, in case of fire. Keep it at work, or another family member’s house. If anyone takes the CD and tries to open the files, you can be confident it’s secure.
You’ll be finished this easy 5 step setup in less than 5 minutes. For the current version (0.2.1.16), here’s what to do:
1) Launch Synaptic and enter the following repository:
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/stevenharperuk/ubuntu feisty main restricted universe multiverse
Click reload and search for ‘truecrypt'; mark both truecrypt and easycrypt packages for installation, then apply, and quit Synaptic. (If you don’t know how to use Synaptic Package Manager, the author has posted some installation instructions on his website here. You could also just instead install the .deb file from the author’s website, but this way it will also auto-update to newer versions in the future. )
2) Next, find Easy Crypt in your Applications –> Accessories menu, then run it. The icon will show in your system tray; right click to bring up the menu. You may wish to set the preferences to ‘auto start’ on login so it will always remain in the system tray.
3) If you’ve never used it (or TrueCrypt) before, you’ll need to create a new crypt. Click ‘recreate crypt’, and it will come up with a warning about “destroy the contents–are you sure?”. Since this is our first crypt, this doesn’t apply to us, so click yes.
4) Choose a good password, better yet use a good passphrase. The more random the better. But make sure you remember it well– once you’ve locked yourself out, the information you’ve saved is as good as gone. Try using 7 or more characters mixed with various case letters and numbers. Make up an acronym to help yourself remember, for example “1mnstB4n” could mean “one must not spill the BEANS for now”. If you’re worried you’ll forget it, you could write it down and keep that in a safe place… treat it like your house key…. just don’t write what it’s for beside it!
5) Choose your file system size. If you’re planning on frequent backing up on CD-RW you should choose 700MB. For a DVD (-R / +R / +RW / -RW) sized file, use 4480MB (I understand all DVD media will hold up to this size). I find using the keyboard arrow keys easier to get it exact. Click new to start generating the encrypted file system and wait a few minutes until it’s done. It takes about 3 minutes on my Pentium 4 system to make a 4480MB sized crypt.
Now your encrypted file system is set up! Using it daily is easy peasy. With a mere mouse click on the Easy Crypt logo, the password entry window pops up. You enter your pass and the file system appears as a drive mounted on the desktop. You might consider making a ‘Places bookmark’ in your nautilus side pane for convenience. Start copying those important files over to your encrypted file system now! Be sure to always close crypt when finished, and make burn your backup after you’ve copied a bunch of new files over to it.
It’s some good kung fu for you and looks like Easy Crypt has a bright future in Ubuntu. It will become included in the upcoming Ubuntu release 8.04. Kudos to Steven Harper for coding this lovely gem! For further discussion, the main Easy Crypt thread on Ubuntuforums.org is located here.