free open source encryption software for Linux & Windows

Say you have a laptop and that if you lost it you wouldn’t like anybody to have access certain files… or say you have a home PC and likewise want the peace of mind associated with knowing certain files are encrypted… how would you go about creating a secure area on your computer that is convenient to use on a daily basis?

We know that built-in password protection on individual files such as spreadsheet documents isn’t strong, and it may well be the case that it’s not convenient to password protect individual files anyway.

truecrypt is a free open source software which, among other things, can create a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mount it so that it looks like a real disk drive/volume. It features on-the-fly encryption which means that data/files are automatically encrypted or decrypted right before they are loaded and saved, without any user intervention. You can copy files to/from the secure drive. You only need to enter the correct password initially when you mount the drive. Its then accessible until you switch off your PC (or unmount the drive).

I have just installed it on both Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP. Installing it on Windows XP is quite straight forward since it has a graphical interface. The Linux version did not come with a graphical interface but I was able to get it working using the command line. UPDATE: I found forcefield which provides a graphical interface to truecrypt on Ubuntu Linux.

Note: when installing it on Linux, select the option to create the volume using ‘FAT’ format instead of ‘None’ (or ‘ext3’). This isn’t intuitive but it works. I found that out by searching google for install assistance when I could not mount the volume/device I had initially created.

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