TrueCrypt is an excellent free encryption software, that securely hides away data. The data is encrypted using strong encryption algorithms called ciphers. If anyone gains access to the data, they will not be able to open, read or write the data. For all appearance, it is just a garbage file, that is a file that takes up disc space without serving any useful purpose. One of the many approaches that TrueCrypt has to securely store data, is to create a virtual file container. This creates a virtual hard drive, then encrypts it. The entire drive is saved as a single file, which is something like an expanding image file. Once you give in the correct password, and a keyfile, if you choose to use one.
Once you have installed TrueCrypt, go to Volumes>Create New Volume. The TrueCrypt Volume Creation Wizard opens up. There are three choices available, choose the first one. This is “Create an encrypted file container”. The description suggests this for new and inexperienced users, because this option will not mess up your operating system, or any other drive if something goes wrong. Select this option, and click on Next.
There are two options available in the next step. The first option is a standard TrueCrypt volume, the second option is a hidden TrueCrypt volume. The standard TrueCrypt volume should be the choice for most users. The standard TrueCrypt volume is also hidden, and encrypted, but the hidden TrueCrypt volume offers another layer of inpenetrability. In case, for any reason, someone comes to know that you have hidden data in a virtual container, and you are forced to reveal the password and the passkey to the person, then the hidden TrueCrypt volume will come to your rescue. What this does is create two hidden volumes, a fake one and a real one. The user will have to convincingly hide sensitive looking data in the fake hidden volume, so that the user can show this data when forced. However, for most users, the standard TrueCrypt volume is good enough.
Click on Next. In this dialogue box, you will have to choose a file. You need a path for the file, but the prompt is designed in a slightly confusing way. You will have to navigate to a particular file and select it. An easy way to do this is create a blank text file and select it. The encrypted volume can have any extension, so you can hide the file in plain sight, and people won’t know what it is. Some extensions are prompted as being problematic, including .dll, .exe, .bat and a few other system related extensions. Even if you use these extensions, by and large, there should not be any major problems.
The next step is to select an encryption algorithm. This is known as a cipher. A cipher is used to encrypt and decrypt files. This process is related to the password and the keyfile, so another decrypter cannot decode the files if the password is not known. The encryption algorithms are very strong, and used by governments and the military worldwide. The AES is the encryption standard, serpant was a close contender to becoming the encryption standard, and twofish is based on blowfish, which was an old encryption standard. You can choose any of these encryption methods, or a combination of the two. AES is considered to be the best compromise between speed of encryption/decryption and strength of the encryption.
The next step is to choose a size for the container. It is possible to choose a dynamically expanding container. This means that the size of the container increases as and when you put data into it. The more secure, and less suspicious way is to create a fixed size container. The prompt allows you to specify the size of the container in KB, MB or GB. Note that you can move the container to other locations later on, just copy and paste the file. For now, select a size and click on next. The next step is to create a password. A password of around ten characters should be good enough for any lay user. Users can additionally, choose to add keyfiles. A keyfile can be any file that the user wants. Once generated or selected, a keyfile is necessary for opening the document. You can choose any file as the keyfile, or create your own by using an image file or a text file. Without the keyfile, you wont be able to access your data, so keep it carefully.
The next step is to format the volume. This allocates a virtual file system for the volume you are creating, without affecting the file system of the volume you are storing the file on. This just dictates the behaviour of the location within the virtual drive, where your data is going to be stored. The location has to be formatted in accordance with the selected drive format, so this will take some time.
That is it, your volume will now be created. To create another virtual volume, click on next. Otherwise, click on Exit. Now, TrueCrypt is necessary to mount the volume. What mounting the volume does is emulate the file as a drive partition on your system. Select one of the free mount points available in the main menu. These will be a list of the alphabets not already used by drives on your system. Then, select the file that you used as the container for the virtual volume, and click on Mount. You will be prompted for the password and the keyfile, if you chose to use one. Once these are entered, your encrypted and hidden volume is mounted as a drive on your system, and you can copy and paste data in and out of it, or work on it directly.
You can also carry around the file, along with TrueCrypt, and use the same container on multiple locations. Save the container on a portable device, and you have a portable encrypted location for storing your data securely.