For somebody who makes a living online, I’m decidedly low-tech. I just got a scanner for the first time a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been scanning and shredding all my paper documents like tax returns, health insurance statements, and so on.
The downside of scanning such private documents and storing them on your hard drive is that they’re not safe. If your computer dies unexpectedly–or, worse, if somebody steals it–you’ve got a problem.
Dropbox is a free service that allows you to store files online. I’ve been using it for quite a while now, and I’m very happy with it.
When you install Dropbox, it creates a folder on your computer that looks and works just like any other. That folder, however, is linked to your Dropbox account. When you save something in that folder, it automatically saves it online as well. And if you’ve linked other computers to your Dropbox account, it automatically updates the version of that file that’s saved on those other computers.
The problem with using Dropbox to store files with sensitive information is that there’s no option to password-protect the Dropbox folder on your computer. If somebody stole your computer, anything in that folder would be immediately accessible to the thief.
Truecrypt is a free encryption program. It allows you to create a “volume,” which is essentially an encrypted (password-protected) folder for storing files you’d rather keep private.
To the naked eye, your Truecrypt volume doesn’t even look like a folder. It just looks like a file with no file type (which you’ve ideally named something very unimportant-sounding) that gives a rather unhelpful error message when somebody tries to open it.
But when opened via Truecrypt (and using the appropriate password), the volume opens and works just like any other folder on your computer.
Truecrypt + Dropbox = Happy Storing
So, by creating a Truecrypt volume that holds all your sensitive files, then saving that volume in your Dropbox folder, you’ve backed up your important files online while at the same time keeping them safe from malicious users.
A few final notes:
- Dropbox’s normally lightning-fast upload speed slows to a crawl on large transfers, so be prepared to wait patiently if your Truecrypt volume is a big one.
- Dropbox isn’t necessarily the only solution. I’m sure there are other online storage services that would work equally well–perhaps even better.
- Nor is Truecrypt the only solution. There are several high quality free encryption programs.
- Truecrypt isn’t exactly intuitive to use. Fortunately, the online user manual has a super step-by-step walk through.
- Be sure not to lose your Dropbox password or the password to your Truecrypt volume.