Data-encryption alternatives to TrueCrypt

Lincoln Spector

It seems as if everyone who kept sensitive files secure did it with TrueCrypt. Edward Snowden depended on it. So did I.

But now that the popular disk-encryption app is effectively dead — at least for the foreseeable future — it’s time to look for a replacement.

In last week’s (June 12) Top Story, “The life and untimely demise of TrueCrypt,” Susan Bradley reviewed the application’s history and stated, “It’s a mystery that we gave TrueCrypt such an extraordinary level of trust. It had dubious legal foundations, its developers were unknown, and its support was primarily relegated to forums that are now missing.”

In this follow-up article, I’ll discuss my own approach to protecting sensitive files, and I’ll explain why I — unlike Susan — typically don’t recommend Microsoft’s BitLocker. I will recommend two file-encryption programs that might take TrueCrypt’s place.

How safe is safe enough — and for what?

Let’s use your home as an analogy. You probably keep your front door locked — at least at night and when you’re away. You might have an alarm system or even bars on the windows. But your security system most likely doesn’t match those used by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

Why? Well, for one thing, you can’t afford it. But mostly, it would be overkill. Few of us have anything in our homes that would attract the sort of professional thieves who might steal a Van Gogh.

To a large extent, the same rules apply to data. It takes a lot of time and skill to crack encryption, and most criminals are looking for an easy score. Even the NSA, which has the ability to crack all but the best encryption, probably won’t bother. It might soak up everyone’s cellphone metadata because that’s relatively easy. But it reserves the hard work for the few people of interest.



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Lincoln Spector

About Lincoln Spector

Lincoln Spector writes about computers, home theater, and film and maintains two blogs: Answer Line at PCWorld.com and Bayflicks.net. His articles have appeared in CNET, InfoWorld, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications.