Encryption tools exist to protect your privacy… and also to make you feel like you’re an awesome spy. Today we’ll use a portable USB drive to hold all of your passwords encrypted in a virtual disk hidden inside a file.
Certain kinds of cryptography were once called “weapons of mass destruction” because certain people thought it was so dangerous. Although clever people are making it good security more and more difficult, encryption tools like the one we’ll be using today are readily available, free, and provide a high level of security that is nearly impossible to break into if done properly. Put on your spy mask and keep reading to find out how to build the perfect encrypted password safe.
And for the skeptics that are curious about the “FBI” claim in our headline, you can read up on Operation Satyagraha, where money launderer Daniel Dantas has successfully encrypted his data and kept the FBI at bay for as long as a year with the very tools we’re going to use today.
Step 1: Get A Reliable USB Drive
If you’re like many geeks, you’ve had your fair share of USB keydrives die on you. The cheap ten dollar drives may not be hardy enough to put a vault of your most important passwords on, so you may have to get a little spendy and pick up one that will last for a while. How-to Geek doesn’t endorse any particular brand of USB drives, but the author has had a lot of success with the Lacie Iamakey series. Lifehacker has featured them on several occasions, and they take a beating and keep your data safe. Use any brand that you think is good enough to hold keys to your online life—feel free to take the author’s recommendation with all the grains of salt you see fit.
Step 2: Create An Encrypted Drive or File with Truecrypt
A lot of software exists for encrypting files, but Truecrypt is a very solid choice. The two features we’re interested in are the ability to encrypt hidden files and the ability to run Truecrypt as portable software. You’ll need both if you ever intend to use your encrypted password key on any machine that isn’t your own.
We’ve done several great guides on how to use TrueCrypt, so we’re not going to delve too deeply into the details today. Here we’ll go over our a basic installation of a portable version of TrueCrypt on your USB disk. To begin, run the TrueCrypt installer and select “Extract” to install it on the USB disk.
And if you prefer, check out our previous guides to the program if you want to try and make your spy drive some other way.
- The How To Geek Guide to Getting Started With TrueCrypt
- The HTG Guide to Hiding Your Data in a TrueCrypt Hidden Volume
TrueCrypt can’t be used “transparently” as a portable EXE file. This basically means that you’ll need administrator control over a machine to use it as a portable application. If this is okay to you, simply hit yes to go on to the next step. If not, you won’t really be able to open your encrypted drive on any machine but one with TrueCrypt installed, effectively tying it to your home PC. For today’s example, we’ll just be extracting it to the USB disk.
Extract the TrueCrypt files to any folder on the disk.
Find the TrueCrypt.exe file on your USB disk and run it. You’ll have to give that pesky administrator permission to start the program.
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