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How to password encrypt a hard drive.

Posted on 2013-11-07
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Last Modified: 2013-12-09
I have a backup 3.5" 1tb hard drive. I need to know a way of encrypting the contents of this drive and require a password to access it. It does NOT have to be any sort of high level government super encryption. Just a format that would be EXTREMELY difficult for your average hacker / thief to crack. Any suggestions from an Expert that has had PERSONAL EXPERIENCE with a particular program? Must be easy to use and cost no more than $60. Free would be nice.
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Question by:Need-a-Clue
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LVL 35

Assisted Solution

by:Kimputer
Kimputer earned 50 total points
ID: 39629916
Take a look at Truecrypt, it's free.

http://www.truecrypt.org/docs/

You have the option to encrypt a whole hard drive, or you can just create a smaller container (basically, just a file), which you can mount as a drive letter.
Many many encryption methods too.
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by:Andy M
Andy M earned 138 total points
ID: 39629925
You've also mentioned that it is used for backups. It may be worth looking into the backup software you are using (if any) as some of these have the option to encrypt the contents of the backups.
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LVL 15

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Giovanni Heward earned 137 total points
ID: 39630055
Here's my recommendations:

Truecrypt
Symantec (PGP) Drive Encryption
BitLocker Drive Encryption

Whatever product you select, be sure to use dual-factor authentication, choosing between two of these categories:

something you know
something you have
something you are

For example, a strong password (something you know) used in conjunction with a WWPass PassKey or YubiKey (something you have)
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LVL 27

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by:Steve
Steve earned 175 total points
ID: 39698248
Hi @Need-a-Clue,

Before settling on a solution, consider how you use the drive as you mention it is a 'backup' drive. Do you use any specific software to 'backup' your system.

If you do, take care as encrypting the drive may stop the backup working (or slow it down)

If not, you are free to use pretty much any encryption and you have 2 basic options:
a) encrypt the whole drive
b) create an encrypted 'container' that sits on the drive and cannot be opened without the correct password.

The weak point of any protection is the password though. All encryption systems can be broken if you choose a simple password.

Before trying complicated encryption software, consider option 'b' by simply using a password protected ZIP/RAR file.
Google it for yourself to see how hard it is to crack a password protected ZIP file using a brute force attack.... (which is incidentally the same way to crack a professionally encrypted container too)
Loads of tools exist but they all do it in the same way.....

As long as you use a long, complicated password it would take ages to crack and is deemed 'uncrackable' within reasonable timescales.


If proper encryption helps you sleep better however, I agree with Kimputer that Truecrypt is one of the simplest options as it can do both types of encryption as above and is very reliable.

It's good and straight forward, but the same brute force attacks that work on ZIP files will also work on Truecrypt containers/disks, so make sure you choose a good password.

See the section '62 characters' on the site below so see how long a password between 2-8 characters might take to crack if you used upper/lower case letters, numbers.

Reference:
http://www.lockdown.co.uk/?pg=combi
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LVL 15

Expert Comment

by:Giovanni Heward
ID: 39698433
The weak point of any protection is the password though. All encryption systems can be broken if you choose a simple password.

Precisely why two-factor authentication is so highly recommended.

something you have combined with something you know
My YubiKey is to the far right.

Another suggestion is to reference a file or passphase (a complete sentence or paragraph of your choosing) and perform a SHA-256 hash against it (could combine with a salt for added measure.)  You'd then use the SHA-256 hash as your actual password.
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Author Closing Comment

by:Need-a-Clue
ID: 39705206
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I feel that I have received a mini education on passwords and truly appreciate each response! I had NO idea how complicated this subject is and how vulnerable people are. I appreciate ALL you EXPERTS! I apologize for the long response time. Health problems.
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LVL 15

Expert Comment

by:Giovanni Heward
ID: 39706179
Your welcome!  Thanks for the points.

Here's a chart which shows various authentication methods and strengths.

auth strength
You can see a password is the weakest method.
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