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TrueCrypt is a very full featured encryption tool and the author's commitment to customization shows. When you reach the encryption options step (shown above) you will be able to pick from the dizzying array of encryption algorithms built in. But for those of you who don’t feel like putting in years of research on learning the differences of each, I highly recommend selecting AES.
Advanced Encryption Standard, which is also known as Rijndael is the encryption standard used by the U.S. government and is widely regarded as a benchmark in terms of security. In addition to being very robust, it is surprisingly lightweight computationally. What does all this mean? It gives you super strong protection and very fast encryption/decryption. This is becomes extremely important since everything you do from now on will need to be encrypted/decrypted on the fly. The default Hash Algorithm – RIPEMD-160 is a good match and doesn’t need to be changed. When you are ready to proceed, click Next.
The next screen will allow you to set your master password and this step is by far the most important yet. Many people out of habit, and convenience, select relatively weak passwords. And while a simple three letter password might be good enough to protect your Maximum PC comment account, you wouldn’t actually use “dog” to protect your bank accounts would you? Below the password selection window True Crypt will give you some tips for selecting a good password. In addition here are some practical and sound tips for selecting a password.
TrueCrypt is going to strongly recommend that you select a password that is 20 characters or more. Selecting a password of this length, with a good mix of non dictionary alpha numeric’s, is generally considered “unguessable”. The only way to unlock a properly encrypted system would be to use a method known as brute force. This method essentially tries every combination of characters until it stumbles upon your password. Usually, they make use of the dictionary to help narrow down the choices. Assuming you aren’t using common words, a 20 character password could take decades to brute. Anything less will reduce the amount of time it would take a crack your code, but is still ultimately much more secure then when you started. If you don't think you can remember a 20 character password just continue ahead. You're better off picking a smaller password you can remember, then a longer one you will forget. .
Need to use words for the dictionary? Try using them backwards, or splice in upper and lower case letters or punctuation.
Using a number combination that might be guessable? Try using the shift key to turn them into random looking symbols.
Make sure you can remember it! In the next step we will build an ISO CD that will be able to restore your computer to its current state but if you forget your password 2 months from now your out of luck. TrueCrypt offers no means of recovering you're password, lost passwords are gone forever, along with your data.
If you absolutely have to write it down, don’t stick it to your monitor!
The guys at TrueCrypt clearly leave no details to chance and now give you the opportunity to salt your encryption keys by using random data generated by your mouse movements. It’s important to notice that this step, though comforting, is highly unnecessary. Before you ever move your mouse you can see from the content pool that a great deal of information already exists. This is because TrueCrypt is taking random data from all over your system before you even begin. This includes information from clocks, globally unique ID’s, serial numbers from hardware components, etc.
My point here is to simply let you know that wearing all the material off your mouse pad during this step won’t help you much. Slowly swirl your way slowly down to NEXT and click past the screen shown below that display’s a snippet of your encryption keys.
The next few screens are going to walk you through creating a rescue CD which is a required step for a very good reason. If something goes wrong during the encryption stage the rescue CD is the only tool that will allow you to recover your data. The rescue CD contains a utility which will allow you to decrypt your drive or restore your master boot record if it ever becomes damaged. Damage to the MBR can happen in many ways, but it is most often caused by some invasive form of DRM that embeds itself in the MBR or some form of malware like a root kit. Essentially anything that writes to the MBR following the installation of TrueCrypt stands a pretty good chance of making your system unbootable.
Your rescue CD is your first and last line of defense here. In the troubleshooting section we will go over how to use the rescue CD should something ever go wrong. In the dialogue box above you’re a picking a path where TrueCrypt will deposit the recovery CD's ISO file. After clicking Next you will be reminded again to burn the ISO to CD and this is where CDBurnerXP (free CD burning utility) comes in handy. This step can be “faked” by using an ISO mounting tool such Windows Virtual CDROM but doing so is not recommended and should be done so at your own peril.
It is also important that you create a Rescue disk for each separate computer you encrypt. The reasons for this are explained in the troubleshooting section if you are interested.
Assuming you were successful in verifying the rescue CD TrueCrypt will give you the option to move ahead.