Protect sensitive data by encrypting it

Protect sensitive data by encrypting it

Protect your most sensitive files by keeping them securely locked away with the help of a free tool

Have you ever worried about the data on your laptop’s hard drive, or a USB flash drive, or what you've got stored online in the cloud? Can you be sure no one else is taking a peek at your sensitive data? One way to protect yourself from snooping is by encrypting your files. TrueCrypt enables you to password-protect your data so you can prevent prying eyes getting at things you'd rather keep secret.

1. Install TrueCrypt
Start by downloading TrueCrypt from this link []. Opt to download the Windows version. Once downloaded, launch the setup file and agree to the terms. Opt to Install rather than extract and stick with the default settings, including setting a System Restore point.

2. Create a new volume
Launch the program and choose Volumes > Create New Volume. Now choose Create an encrypted file container, which is the simplest way to use the program. This will protect your data by storing it inside an encrypted file. Click Next.

3. Set Volume Type
Opt to create a standard TrueCrypt volume. This provides an encrypted file secured by a password, which is secure enough for most purposes. The hidden option is more advanced and only necessary for very high-level security. Click Next again.

4. Set container location
Click Select File. Now browse to the location where you want to store your encrypted files – this could be a folder on your hard drive, or a removable USB drive like a thumb drive. Enter a name for the container file and click Save. Don't select an existing file as this will result in it being wiped. Click Next.

5. Encryption options
The next stage lets you pick an encryption algorithm that’s used to scramble your data and make it unreadable without the password. If you're not sure which one to use, stick with the default option of AES. Other options can combine different encryption methods if you need more security, but are slower to process. Click Next.

6. Set container size
Set the size of the volume inside your container file. You can do this in KB, MB or GB . This is the maximum size that your encrypted volume can contain. If you opt to create a dynamic file later, it won't take up all this space initially but will expand as you add data to it. You will need enough disk space to hold the maximum size you set, so bear this in mind.

7. Set a password
Create a strong password to protect your container. You'll be warned if you make it shorter than 20 characters. You can also optionally add a keyfile. This can be any file on the drive where you create the container file, such as an image, document or a music file.  You’ll need the keyfile in addition to your password to access your encrypted file, if you decide to add one.

8. Choose format options
Your container file has a virtual drive inside it. This needs to be formatted, just like any other drive. You can opt to use the FAT or NTFS file systems and you can set the cluster size if you like. It's safe to stick with the default options. If you want a dynamic file that expands as you add to it, check the box marked Dynamic.

9. Format and encrypt file
Move the mouse randomly inside the format window to help generate a strong encryption key. Notice the random pool of characters change as you move it around. Click Format to apply this data to the virtual drive inside your container. Once complete, click OK followed by Exit.

10. Mount your container
You’ll need to mount your container file whenever you want to add data to your encrypted container, or to access data you’ve previously stored. To do so, choose Select File from the main TrueCrypt window and browse to your container file.  Click Open and then select a drive letter that you want to assign to the volume from the list displayed. Click Mount.

11. Password and keys
Enter the password for this container file.  If you used one or more key files, click Keyfiles followed by Add files. Browse to the files that you used as keys and add them to the list. Click OK. Your container will now show as a new drive in your system.

12. Add contents and close
You can now add or remove files from the newly mounted drive as if it were any other drive on your system. When you've finished, open TrueCrypt, select the drive and choose Dismount. The container is now closed and you can move it wherever you like. To open it on a different PC, you will need TrueCrypt installed on that computer so you can mount the container in the same way.