For 10 years, TrueCrypt was the leading disk encryption solution available. Unfortunately, this open source application was discontinued in 2014 and many users are still looking for a suitable alternative. TrueCrypt allows users to encrypt data on hard drives and disks. Once the data is encrypted, a password is required in order to access it. The software supports both Mac and Windows and it was used by millions of people around the world. Although it is still possible to use it, since it is no longer being maintained or updated, it is not a safe solution. In fact, it is still unclear why its developers suddenly stopped working on it and many concerns about the security of the tool have been risen. In order to secure your data, it is advisable to consider one of the alternatives available. You can choose from the applications listed below.
VeraCrypt is a fork of TrueCrypt, but it is set to fix many of the security weaknesses that affected the original software. It covers the main functionality of TrueCrypt and it offers additional features. Developers state that with VeraCrypt, your data is protected against the latest brute-force attacks, thanks to the additional security that it brings to system and partitions encryption. VeraCrypt is considered as one of the most reliable alternatives to TrueCrypt and many even considered it as the best replacement. It allows you to encrypt a hard drive or USB stick and you can also set up a virtual encrypted disk (volume), that you can use as a real disk. VeraCrypt is free, open source and it is compatible with Windows, Linux and macOS.
EncFS is an easy to use, open source solution that is set to create an encrypted volume that can be usually stored in a cloud storage folde, which makes cloud syncing easier. The folder can be mounted locally like a virtual drive where files can be accessed without encryption. After the files are added to the virtual drive or modified there, they are also added to the encrypted folder. Windows and Linux users can rely on EncFS and through the Cryptonite app, it is also possible to use the software on Android.
CipherShed also started as a fork of TrueCrypt and it is a free and open source solution as well. Its code can be inspected by anyone and independent developers are encouraged to collaborate with the project to improve and expand its functionality. Although CipherShed is still in a basic stage when compared to the likes of VeraCrypt, it offers the same features. It allows you to carry out full disk encryption and it also supports the creation of encrypted containers. The security vulnerabilities that affected TrueCrypt have been addressed in CipherShed and the software can even be used with TrueCrypt containers, which is a possibility that the latest versions of VeraCrypt don’t support. CipherShed works on Windows, Mac and Linux.
AES Crypt is a cross-platform, Java-based file encryption solution that supports basic file encryption. It can be used on Mac, Linux and Windows and it integrates with the operating system. On Mac, AES Crypt supports drag-and-drop function, while Windows and Linux users will need to use the right-click menu button to manage the software. It is possible to decrypt a file by double clicking the encrypted .aes file and providing the password that was entered originally. A command line interface is also available. It should be noted that it is only possible to encrypt single files, although you can create zip files from folders and encrypt the zip at a later stage with AES Crypt.
Linux Unified Key Setup or LUKS, is an encryption standard included in most Linux distros. It uses dm-crypt to provide full encryption and it establishes a platform-independent standard on-disk format for use in multiple tools. All the important data is kept in the partition header, which means that it can be transferred without issues. The advantage of LUKS over other TrueCrypt alternatives like VeraCrypt is that it gives users more freedom in terms of choosing the encryption algorithms. Given that the documentation available requires technical knowledge and that LUKS is optimized for Linux, it is recommended for advanced users, rather than beginners.
Bitlocker is another option for users who want to protect their data, although it doesn’t offer the same features as TrueCrypt or VeraCrypt. Although Bitlocker encrypts entire volumes using AES with 128 or 256-bit key, it can’t create encrypted containers, unlike the service previously mentioned. With Bitlocker entire partitions have to be encrypted at the same time. The issue with this is that if you share your computer and forget to log off, other users will be able to see all your files. While Windows offers a separate encryption solution known as EFS or encrypted file system, which allows you to encrypt individual files and folders, the data would also be visible when you are logged in. It should also be noted that Bitlocker is not open source, meaning that it is not possible to verify independently that it doesn’t contain backdoors. Bitlocker only supports Windows.
Encrypting data using a VPN
The above applications can help you to encrypt data while it is at rest on your device or on a external drive. However, the data will still be at risk during transmission, unless you take additional measures. A VPN will encrypts your entire online traffic and it directs the data through a server in the location you select. Not even your ISP will be able to access the data that is being transmitted. Once the data leaves the VPN server, it is not encrypted, but it doesn’t come from your IP address, but from that of the VPN server. Your real IP address is hidden and when multiple users share the same IP, which is usually the case, an additional layer of anonymity is added to your data.