Preserving privacy by encrypting block devices

Block Tech


The recent revelations about NSA spying have sparked renewed interest in data encryption. Encrypting at the file level is quick and easy, but if you're looking for an extra dose of protection, try encrypting the whole block device.

The two principal options for encrypting data are hardware based and software based. You can also use both options in combination, but that can be a little overkill – although, in the current climate, perhaps not.

Hardware-based encryption solutions require specialized hardware (see the box "Self-Encrypting Drive"). Software-based approaches, on the other hand, have three options for encrypting your data on a Linux system: (1) encrypting a single file, (2) encrypting a directory (with or without a virtual disk) or filesystem, and (3) encrypting a physical block device.

Encrypting files is fairly straightforward, and several tools are available for doing so, such as bcrypt, NCrypt, and 7-Zip, which can compress and encrypt files using 256-bit AES. The most popular tool is probably GnuPG, which comes with just about every Linux distribution.


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