Tuesday, November 27, 2007

TrueCrypt 4.3a

This is kind of cool.

When Phil Zimmerman came out with the first PGP ("Pretty Good Privacy"), he included a utility called PGP Disk that allowed you to create special files that you could then mount as encrypted volumes, completely transparent to Windows (or Linux, or Macintosh).

As the decades ticked away, that simple utility got taken up by corporate interests and modified with extra bells and whistles for the "corporate environment" — including, allegedly, backdoors which make it possible for management (or the government) to look inside your perhaps not-so-secret volumes. At one point, Phil Zimmerman dropped out and refused to associate his name with PGP anymore. I haven't kept up with the story; maybe all that's changed these days.

The GNU Privacy Guard (formerly known as GPG) grew up as an open source, peer reviewed alternative to PGP — without PGP Disk. TrueCrypt, which has a technically savvy website of its own, offers a free, peer reviewed, open source replacement for PGP Disk.

It's a bit IT-intensive for average home users, but power users should have no problem installing it and using it. I've been poking around in TrueCrypt for a few hours, and can affirm that the bugs probably aren't in the very heavy-duty crypto algorithms (AES, Serpent, Twofish, Whirlpool, RIPEMD-160, SHA-1), but there are a few in the user interface.

I'd give TrueCrypt 8 out of 10 stars; with a good scrubbing through Quality Assurance using naive, but not stupid, users who don't already understand how things are supposed to be done, this could quickly buff up to 10 out of 10.

As I recall, before PGP Disk there was a really old utility called CryptDisk that ran on the Macintosh SE and its antiquated ilk.



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