On 28th May 2014, the users of TrueCrypt were surprised when it was announced the freeware project would be discontinued from that day. It was sudden and took place under extremely questionable circumstances. Everyone who depended on TrueCrypt as the trustworthy, on the fly encryption service would now have to search for an equal alternative. Suffice to say, this wasn’t really an easy thing to do!
During that period, users flocked to open source encryption tools available for the different platforms. Funnily enough, TrueCrypt did somewhat make a comeback.
In April of 2015, TrueCrypt’s audit came to an end, and unknown developers brought forth VeraCrypt. It supposedly fixed and corrected all previous security holes present with TrueCrypt.
It’s available on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, and even Unix.
Although the tool works great, TrueCrypt was never open source, and the code was somewhat stolen during the open audit. This means the original developers can legally shut down VeraCrypt if they wished. Considering how they have worked hard to remain anonymous, and completely abandoned TrueCrypt, there is speculation that this is not in their interest.
If you prefer to look for another option, we list a few alternatives below. These are mostly open source services that will help you encrypt your files within your storage device.
This Windows-only, single file encryption program can easily encrypt and decrypt all the files that are present in your folders. Following the AES_128 with HMAC-SHA1-128 data verification, it also provides you with the liberty of using a keyfile. A keyfile allows you to create much stronger passwords.
Moreover, a portable version of the encryption program helps you increase the bits of your encryption to USB devices.The only unfriendly feature is the fact that it’s limited to Windows, and is not compatible with other operating systems. Visit AxCrypt.
Another full disk encryption program exclusively for Windows users is DiskCryptor. Using the AES_256, Twofish and Serpent encryption, it is the closest one can come to using features that are similar to TrueCrypt. Officially described as “an open encryption solution that offers encryption of all disk partitions, including the system partition”, DiskCryptor allows its users to encrypt hard drives and individual partitions, albeit without using the per-file or per-folder option.
However, it doesn’t tick all the boxes that TrueCrypt did. These include the absence of ‘hidden volumes’, the lack of the per-file encryption method, and obviously the limitations of it only being compatible with the Windows. Visit DiskCryptor.
This Java-based encryption program is the first one on this list which is compatible with operating systems other than Windows. It also makes use of AES_256 encryption and is extremely user-friendly with its features.
It’s easy to use and only supports individual file encryption. File decryption can be achieved by double clicking the encrypted file, and then entering the password that you supplied at the encruption. Visit AES Crypt.
Its official website describes it as “an encrypted filesystem in user-space. It runs with regular user permissions using the FUSE library. EncFS is Open Source software. The EncFS library is licensed under the LGPL.”
Like the previous entry, it is possible to use EncFS on other operating systems. You can also use it on Android by installing the Cryptonite app, among others.
EncFS creates an encrypted volume which is stored in a cloud using applications like Dropbox. From such cloud storage folders, files can be mounted to your desktop. Any file that is added or changed on a cloud storage platform gets encrypted simultaneously.
This is an added advantage over TrueCrypt since you no longer need to re-upload an entire encrypted folder while changing a single file. Instead, each file is encrypted individually. Visit EncFS.
CryptSetup and LUKS (Linux Unified Key Setup)
The ultimate standard for every Linux user who wants hard disk encryption. It is generally built in and can also be used by Android and DragonFly BSD. It can be used in tandem with the Cryptsetup subsystem to provide full disk encryption.
LUKS is similar to TrueCrypt. It is capable and competent, often edging past TrueCrypt with some features. However, the only glitch is that it isn’t very user-friendly. It uses command line prompts which can only be deciphered by experts who are well versed in linux, or patient enough to follow a guide properly. Visit CryptSetup.
As the only name on this list that is perhaps meant exclusively for Android users, Secrecy shows a lot of promise. It allows you to create password-protected vaults where you can place any kind of file under the protection of the encryption code AES_256. The app is still in early stages of development. As such, expect a few glitches here and there – especially with the speed of encrypting or decrypting files.
It doesn’t leave a trace of any temporary files in the system and uses stealth mode to hide vaults. Visit Secrecy.
A Few Final Words …
Encryption is both useful online and offline, due to the risk carried if your devices or drives ever get stolen. Businesses and individuals can both benefit from quickly encrypting sensitive data. Projects, work documents and personal files are all things you wouldn’t necessarily want exposed.
Choosing the right encryption tool for the time being is more of a platform based decision. Open source options ensure that bugs and security holes get exposed and patched at a much quicker pace. Overall, open source software is important to digital security, and you can learn more in this online privacy guide.