VeraCrypt – A TrueCrypt replacement / follow-on

Some time back, I’d been using TrueCrypt for many not-too-important file saving uses. (i.e. nothing that a TLA Three Letter Agency would care about and nothing that would cause legal issues- just junk I’d rather not be stumbled on by ‘randoms’ without my consent). Then TrueCrypt tossed in the towel with vague mumbles about not enough people paying enough money and there being some kind of security exposure.

IMHO, that exposure mostly extended to the “full disk encryption” with blockage from the OS seeing it without the key entered. With the advent of UEFI there was an attempt to prevent anything other than the approved licensed OS being “runable” on any given hardware.

Plausibly a valid security tightening as it prevents people like me from booting hardware with a Linux CD and looking at the disk. But decent real disk encryption would make that pointless anyway. Preventing the use of “Rescue CDs” is far more damaging than the gain, IMHO. Then again, I’ve had to rescue systems for a living before so it’s kind of important to me.

So time has passed and folks have found ways to make UEFI a bit more livable (like enabling “legacy boot” and using other BIOS systems). But still, IMHO, it needs a bit more proof of security. Having a very fat black box sitting between me and the hardware makes for a bit of worry as to what has been snuck into it.

That aside, the general security of TrueCrypt was “good enough” for most things, and I’ve continued using the old code. The download site had gone to a broken version that would only decrypt, so new users were SOL unless they found an old version somewhere.

Time Moves On

As is the way of things in Open Source, someone picked up the old TrueCrypt sources and took on the work of moving it forward. Things of modest use become dead hulks, lurking on archives once abandoned. Things with a real following have someone “step up to the plate”.

So a new follow-on product is out there. VeraCrypt. Based on the TrueCrypt sources, but with a bit of improvements. From what they say abou the ‘vulnerability’ of the older TrueCrypt, it was still secure against most medium scale attacks.

I’ve downloaded VeraCrypt (including source code) but not unpacked or used it yet. In time I will. Right now I’m in the ‘pack-rat and ponder’ stage. ;-) But for anyone feeling abandoned on TrueCrypt, it looks like a desirable upgrade.

The home page is here:

https://veracrypt.codeplex.com/

It is amusing as the product is from France, but the text is English while one of the donate buttons is French. I like Franglish, but rarely run into it. ;-) Noted, too, is that the French have in some ways stimulated the motivation lately

Project Description

VeraCrypt is a free disk encryption software brought to you by IDRIX (https://www.idrix.fr) and that is based on TrueCrypt 7.1a.

Donate to VeraCrypt Faire un don à VeraCrypt Spenden für VeraCrypt

Donate with Bitcoin

VeraCrypt on Facebook VeraCrypt on Twitter

Coverity Status

Windows / MacOSX / Linux / Source Downloads

Online Documentation (click here for latest User Guide PDF)

Release Notes

Frequently Asked Question

Android & iOS Support

Contributed Resources & Downloads (PPA, RPM, ARM, Raspberry Pi…)

There is also a wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VeraCrypt

VeraCrypt is a source-available freeware utility used for on-the-fly encryption (OTFE). It can create a virtual encrypted disk within a file or encrypt a partition or (under Microsoft Windows except Windows 8 with UEFI or GPT) the entire storage device with pre-boot authentication.

VeraCrypt is a fork of the discontinued TrueCrypt project. It was initially released on June 22, 2013 and has produced its seventh release (version 1.0f-2) as of April 2015. According to its developers, security improvements have been implemented and issues raised by the initial TrueCrypt code audit have been addressed.

I note that they recognize the Windoze 8 / UEFI problem / PITA. Windoze 8 – Just Say No. What are the security things changed?

Security improvements

According to its developers, VeraCrypt has made several security improvements over TrueCrypt.

While TrueCrypt uses 1000 iterations of the PBKDF2-RIPEMD160 algorithm for system partitions, VeraCrypt uses 327,661 iterations. For standard containers and other partitions, VeraCrypt uses 655,331 iterations of RIPEMD160 and 500,000 iterations of SHA-2 and Whirlpool. While this makes VeraCrypt slightly slower at opening encrypted partitions, it makes the software a minimum of 10 and a maximum of about 300 times harder to brute force. “Effectively, something that might take a month to crack with TrueCrypt might take a year with VeraCrypt”.

A vulnerability in the bootloader was fixed on Windows and various optimizations were made as well. The developers added support for SHA-256 to the system boot encryption option and also fixed a ShellExecute security issue. Linux and Mac OS X users benefit from support for hard drives with sector sizes larger than 512. Linux also received support for the NTFS formatting of volumes.

Due to the security improvements, the VeraCrypt storage format is incompatible with that of TrueCrypt. The VeraCrypt development team believes that the old TrueCrypt format is too vulnerable to an NSA attack and thus it must be abandoned. This is one of the main differences between VeraCrypt and its competitor, CipherShed, as CipherShed continues to use the TrueCrypt format. However, beginning with version 1.0f, VeraCrypt is capable of opening and converting volumes in the TrueCrypt format,

OK, old TrueCrypt was not NSA proof. If they are on your butt, using TrueCrypt is the least of your worries. It will still be local ‘enforcement’ proof and certainly “anybody without a ton of money and skilz” proof. But VeraCrypt has gone ahead and moved things down the field with ever more “rounds” to make unscrambling harder and with some fixes for full encryption boot time operations. (that I wasn’t using anyway).

Now that it has added support for converting TrueCrypt volumes, I’m likely to move over to it. (Not that it is hard to open both at the same time and drag / drop… but converting a few Gig of old crap is not high on my life goals for the day…)

If using a Mac, you need FUSE to use it:

https://osxfuse.github.io/

Concerns

The list of security concerns are pretty few and mostly involve the fact that if the machine can be compromised, software can’t do much.

Security concerns

VeraCrypt is vulnerable to various known attacks that also affect other software-based disk encryption software such as BitLocker. To mitigate these attacks, the documentation distributed with VeraCrypt requires users to follow various security precautions. Some of these attacks are detailed below.

Encryption keys stored in memory

VeraCrypt stores its keys in the RAM; on an ordinary personal computer the DRAM will maintain its contents for several seconds after power is cut (or longer if the temperature is lowered). Even if there is some degradation in the memory contents, various algorithms can intelligently recover the keys. This method, known as a cold boot attack (which would apply in particular to a notebook computer obtained while in power-on, suspended, or screen-locked mode), has been successfully used to attack a file system protected by TrueCrypt.

Physical security

VeraCrypt documentation states that VeraCrypt is unable to secure data on a computer if an attacker physically accessed it and VeraCrypt is then used on the compromised computer by the user again. This does not affect the common case of a stolen, lost, or confiscated computer. The attacker having physical access to a computer can, for example, install a hardware/software keylogger, a bus-mastering device capturing memory, or install any other malicious hardware or software, allowing the attacker to capture unencrypted data (including encryption keys and passwords), or to decrypt encrypted data using captured passwords or encryption keys. Therefore, physical security is a basic premise of a secure system. Attacks such as this are often called “evil maid attacks”.

Malware

VeraCrypt documentation states that VeraCrypt cannot secure data on a computer if it has any kind of malware installed. Some kinds of malware are designed to log keystrokes, including typed passwords, that may then be sent to the attacker over the Internet or saved to an unencrypted local drive from which the attacker might be able to read it later, when he or she gains physical access to the computer.

Trusted Platform Module

The FAQ section of the VeraCrypt website states that the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) cannot be relied upon for security, because if the attacker has physical or administrative access to the computer and you use it afterwards, the computer could have been modified by the attacker e.g. a malicious component—such as a hardware keystroke logger—could have been used to capture the password or other sensitive information. Since the TPM does not prevent an attacker from maliciously modifying the computer, VeraCrypt will not support TPM.

Security audits

An independent code audit of VeraCrypt is currently in the initial planning stage.

VeraCrypt is based on the source code of TrueCrypt, which passed an independent security audit. Phase I of the audit was successfully completed on 14 April 2014, finding “no evidence of backdoors or malicious code.” Phase II of the audit was successfully completed on 2 April 2015, finding “no evidence of deliberate backdoors, or any severe design flaws that will make the software insecure in most instances.”

OK, so when you shutdown, SHUT IT DOWN. Don’t go to sleep mode. Similarly, don’t always decrypt everything. Leave encrypted file systems encrypted and only decrypt at the time of need. Heck, for things I care about, the disk isn’t even plugged into the box until needed, then the container only decrypted when the network is shut off. Anyone remote can see a generic computer. “The Air Gap Is Your Friend” rules.

Finally, if you are worried about someone dunking your laptop into liquid nitrogen inside a minute or two, you have bigger issues to deal with. A “dynamic no-knock entry” with flash-bangs for example. If that level of “issue” is involved, you need a physically secure fortress in which to operate to give you the couple of minutes needed for a wipe / shutdown. ( I suggest a thermite box to toss it into and light off. Have an oxygen bottle labeled “Fire Extinguisher” and painted red hanging next to it… )

For my purposes, that level of “exposure” is way overkill and out of my league / needs.

Oh, and if you are worried about a buggered OS, you ought to make a CD / DVD / USB drive of Linux and only use that to open the encrypted containers. At that point a hardware key logger is still an exposure, but unless you are a drug dealer or worse it is highly unlikely someone is “in your house” and only installing a replacement keyboard cable with key logger built in. (OTOH, now you have a bit of clue why I have a dozen different computers I work from and rotate the stock regularly ;-) Someone want’s to try finding a specific off brand of pre-PS-2 AT connector keyboard with just the right coffee stains on it; well, go right ahead ;-)

So I find this level of “exposure” fine for anything short of being an international spy. But those folks have their own Q to support them.

Realize that an email can be kept fairly private just by encrypting it in a file and sending that as an attachment. If the outer email is then further encrypted with something like PGP, well, it’s going to frustrate the hell out of most folks trying to get into your stuff. The advantage of the file attachment approach is that it does not require the recipient to have a matching email / encryptor set. Just the skill to download and install public software aps. (Someday PGP email will become ubiquitous. But I’m still trying to pick one for me. Until then, the encrypted attachment is useful.)

With that, enjoy the enhanced privacy.

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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One Response to VeraCrypt – A TrueCrypt replacement / follow-on

  1. oogenhand says:

    Reblogged this on oogenhand.

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