Is open source cryptographic software working properly?

VeraCrypt - full encryption for sensitive data

Functionality: VeraCrypt is encryption software based on the TrueCrypt code. However, the program authors emphasize that they have improved the open source tool at the critical points so that it can withstand brute force attacks better. The changes include the more numerous iterations in the hash functions used (RIPEMD160, SHA-2 and Whirlpool).

With the program you can create an encrypted container file containing the VeraCrypt volume and mount it as a virtual drive. Everything you save on this drive is encrypted directly. This option is particularly recommended for beginners because of its lower complexity. In addition, you have the option of completely encrypting one or more partitions, even if it is the system drive. If there is already data on this partition that you still need, in-place encryption is recommended - otherwise existing information will be overwritten with random values.

A hidden VeraCrypt volume, which is located within a standard volume, serves as additional protection. Even if the latter is mounted, the hidden volume is thus hidden from prying eyes. You must secure access to the coded information with a password that is as strong as possible. If you choose the password too weak, VeraCrypt will inform you of this.

There are several coding methods to choose from, the best known of which is probably AES, which is also used by default. You cannot define the key lengths for these algorithms yourself, but the tool automatically uses the highest level of protection.

Those switching from TrueCrypt should take into account that the storage formats used by VeraCrypt and TrueCrypt are not compatible with each other.

Installation: The installer for Windows (3.3 MB) is available as an EXE file. After downloading, just open it and follow the instructions in the wizard - done. The tool can also be used portable. To do this, select the mode during setup Extract so that the files are only extracted.

The Linux package consists of a 9.3 Mbyte tar file that contains the installation scripts for the GUI and console versions.

A ZIP archive (2.3 MByte) with various language files, including German, is also available on the download page. You have to unzip this package into the VeraCrypt program directory, then call up the tool and can be found in the menu Settings / Language select the desired language.

Service: The graphical user interface of VeraCrypt is divided into three areas. Below the menu line there is space for the encrypted virtual drives with information on their volume, size, encryption algorithm and type. Since the height and width of the program window cannot be adjusted, you may have to scroll a little to see all the information. In the lower area of ​​the user interface there are a number of buttons that can be used to access the most important commands.

Orientation and handling are easy for users who already have experience with the predecessor TrueCrypt, as the operating concept is identical. Beginners should start with a click on the button Create volume. Then an assistant starts, which supports the user in all necessary steps and provides useful additional information. The English PDF documentation can also be called up via the Help button, which still relates to TrueCrypt, but as mentioned above, this is of no further importance.

Finally, all that remains is to assign the encrypted volume that has been created to a virtual drive and mount it. This can be easily achieved by highlighting a drive letter, selecting the container file, on Include click and enter the password. Windows Explorer then lists the volume like a normal drive that allows the known file operations.

  1. VeraCrypt - license terms
    The fact that VeraCrypt is based on TrueCrypt can already be seen during the installation when it comes to the license conditions.
  2. VeraCrypt - Setup Modes
    The setup knows two modes. You can also use VeraCrypt portable using the "Extract" command.
  3. VeraCrypt Installation Options
    There are a number of options for the installation process to choose from.
  4. VeraCrypt - Setup Completion
    The setup is completed after a short time. The tool can then be used directly without restarting.
  5. VeraCrypt language files
    The language files, including those for German, are housed in a separate archive. After installing VeraCrypt you have to unzip it in the program directory.
  6. VeraCrypt - language selection
    The language can then be changed via the "Settings / Language" menu.
  7. VeraCrypt - GUI after first call
    The graphical user interface of VeraCrypt comprises three areas: menu bar, table with mounted drives and buttons for the most common commands.
  8. VeraCrypt - create container file
    In order to work with the tool, the first thing to do is to create a volume. Beginners should start with a container file.
  9. VeraCrypt - volume type
    Next you need to decide on a volume type. The preselection for the standard variant is suitable for normal security requirements.
  10. VeraCrypt location
    The VeraCrypt volume can - as here - be contained in a file that can be stored on any data carrier.
  11. VeraCrypt algorithm
    You can select from a list which algorithm VeraCrypt encrypts with. The program uses AES-256 by default.
  12. VeraCrypt - hash method
    In addition to choosing the encryption method, you can also determine the hash function used.
  13. VeraCrypt - volume size
    The size of a container file is only limited by the free space on the data carrier.
  14. VeraCrypt - Volume Password
    You must set a password to protect the volume. Which length and character combinations are useful can be found in the explanations in the wizard window.
  15. VeraCrypt - volume format
    The volume is formatted like a normal drive with a file system before it is available.
  16. VeraCrypt - Volume created
    After you have created a volume, you can create more directly or return to the main window to mount the encrypted area.
  17. VeraCrypt - Include Volume
    As soon as you have assigned the generated encrypted volume to a virtual drive and integrated it, it is ready for use and can also be accessed via Windows Explorer.

Conclusion: The Windows version of VeraCrypt proved to be stable and worked quickly in the test, despite the earlier version number. Anyone who has already gained experience with the predecessor TrueCrypt will quickly warm up with the new tool. Other users may have to get used to the concept first, especially when it comes to specialties such as hidden volumes. But there is also a downer for those switching: VeraCrypt is not compatible with old TrueCrypt files. (mje)