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Something easy you should do: Encrypt your Dropbox

February 23rd, 2013 by Andrew Smales

Dropbox is great and I love using it. It solves so many problems and a lot of iPhone and iPad apps take advantage of it to save files. (By the way the advice in this article should also apply to other Dropbox alternatives like Google Drive, Box.net, Skydrive and even Owncloud.)

A problem is that Dropbox has had security issues in the past, and it just seems like more and more big websites are having breaches lately. It’s not a great idea to store important files with any sort of sensitive information on Dropbox, who knows what could happen. If you only use it for a quick backup of family photos or something, this might not really be an issue for you.

So, the solution is to use the free, open source program TrueCrypt to encrypt all your stuff, and then sync it to Dropbox. You might think encryption is a pain, or hard, but it’s not, it’s actually pretty simple. I thought it was tough until pretty recently when I finally tried TrueCrypt, and I was shocked at how simple the process was.

Here’s the rundown:

When you install TrueCrypt on your home computer (or laptop, etc.), it lets you create an encrypted file. You choose how big this file is, and then TrueCrypt will mount this file as if it was an extra hard drive. Even though it’s a normal file on your computer, it will show up as if it’s an external hard drive, and will act accordingly. When you want to encrypt a document for safekeeping, you just drag it onto that drive and it’s automatically encrypted. TrueCrypt actually works a lot like Dropbox.

So, when you install TrueCrypt, when it asks you where to create your encrypted drive (which, remember, is just a file), you stick it in your Dropbox. Give it enough time to sync up properly, and then boom, you now have a secure place to store files, and nobody can get to them unless they know your TrueCrypt password. You can use TrueCrypt to mount that file on any computer you want (there are clients for Windows, Mac and Linux), so you still get the benefits of Dropbox, without the danger of anyone reading your private files.

I should add that this will still give access to your files to anyone who has access to your computer while the TrueCrypt drive is mounted, so if you’re extra paranoid, then make sure to unmount your TrueCrypt drive whenever you aren’t using it. What I have described will give you 24/7 security to anyone who hacks your Dropbox account (or Dropbox’s servers), and will keep your files safe on your home computer as long as you don’t let anyone use your computer while the TrueCrypt drive is mounted.

Oh and getting TrueCrypt running isn’t the most straightforward thing, the interface is a bit confusing to begin, but give it a minute, or do a google search, and you’ll get it, it’s really quite straightforward.

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