How can I hide files from a tech-savvy person?
June 14, 2009 10:02 PM   Subscribe

How can I hide files from a tech-savvy person?

I need to hide files from a slightly tech-savvy individual. Meaning going to properties and setting the file to hidden isn't going to trick this person at all. Would be nice if I can hide the file from being searched too. Thanks.

Btw I don't have an external hard drive to mess with
posted by rintako to Computers & Internet (37 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
This is what keychain USB thumb drives are for.
posted by aquafortis at 10:08 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Btw the files are really big, couple of gigs and unreasonable to store on a USB drive. I think you guys know what they are =P
posted by rintako at 10:10 PM on June 14, 2009

You need encryption. Try truecrypt. If you want plausible deniability, use the hidden volume option.
posted by claudius at 10:11 PM on June 14, 2009


Create a hidden volume, throw the files in there, and set a strong password. Even a tech savvy person would have a pretty hard time finding the volume and then decrypting it.
posted by special-k at 10:12 PM on June 14, 2009

Well, if they're a couple of gigs, their mere existence is going to raise eyebrows. I'd encrypt them and change their name to, I dunno, Batman.Returns.2008.aXXo.avi or something, then pretend they were corrupt.
posted by claudius at 10:13 PM on June 14, 2009

Btw the files are really big, couple of gigs and unreasonable to store on a USB drive

You can get a 32GB thumb drive for ~$80
posted by mpls2 at 10:17 PM on June 14, 2009

OP: Did we just help you hide your porn?

Well, if they're a couple of gigs, their mere existence is going to raise eyebrows.

Not unless this person digs deep. He/she would have to compute filesize of all directories and compare that to the total hd size. Any number of hidden system files could easily make up 2 gb. Plus if this is a big hd, 2 gigs will go unnoticed.
posted by special-k at 10:18 PM on June 14, 2009

Use truecrypt and call the encrypted containers pagefile.sys. Everyone expects that to be big and you can spread them around in system locations. foo.dll works too. Better though is to encrypt a volume however you'd need to have unallocated disk available or the skill to repartition.

special-k writes "Not unless this person digs deep. He/she would have to compute filesize of all directories and compare that to the total hd size"

Meet the power of SequoiaView. 2GB files stick out like a sore thumb regardless of where they are.
posted by Mitheral at 10:24 PM on June 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Meet the power of SequoiaView. 2GB files stick out like a sore thumb regardless of where they are.

Or Spacemonger. The best strategy is to stick it with a bunch of other large files, ones likely to be corrupt - torrented movies or ISOs.
posted by claudius at 10:28 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Or DriveSpacio
posted by dfriedman at 10:31 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

How far are you willing to go?

You can break the files up into small chunks, give them all random names ending in .tmp (but embedding a sequence number, perhaps according to a geometric sequence), and encrypt them for good measure. Of course, that's going to make using them inconvenient, but if your goal is to transport the files or stash them for later, it might work.

Steganography may be worth looking into, depending on your needs.

If you just want to have the files around for periodic use/viewing, then a huge USB keychain drive is the way to go. Shell out for one of the biggest models, then keep it somewhere safe. Hollowed-out book, Altoids box, glasses case, dry-erase marker with part of the ink-cylinder removed -- think like a sophisticated urban pot smoker. Don't forget to purge caches after utilizing your data.
posted by Maximian at 10:33 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't forget to purge caches after utilizing your data

posted by claudius at 10:37 PM on June 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

Going to nth the flash drive idea.

The only way to make sure a file is hidden is to physically hide it.
posted by reductiondesign at 10:45 PM on June 14, 2009

Is this for a one-time fix, or an ongoing situation where the person has access to the computer?
posted by a halcyon day at 10:50 PM on June 14, 2009

How many files are there? You could rename the files and extensions to something innocuous, eg, text files that really aren't. Someone else might know of ways to rename multiple files quickly.

And... no... I'm not speaking from personal experience...
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:51 PM on June 14, 2009

I recommend Easy File & Folder Protector. It hides the files and folder it is in, meaning search won't show them up, and you can password the changes if you like, so that they can't be easily undone.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:51 PM on June 14, 2009

If you don't want to buy a new and larger USB thumb drive just dump the files onto your iPod. Small files you can hide in a .jpg and no one is the wiser, have a photo of your mother and in it all your passwords or whatever it is you want to keep hidden. But you're not going to have any jpgs at three gig or whatever..
posted by dancestoblue at 11:46 PM on June 14, 2009

Even smaller than a thumb drive: you can get a micro SD card -- they have them up to something like 16 gigs, I think. And then a little adapter to plug into the usb port to view it (might need some excuse for having the adapter -- perhaps a camera or something that uses them)?

Then -- one of those little cards can be hidden anywhere.
posted by paultopia at 12:39 AM on June 15, 2009

You could set up a through-away hotmail account. I believe that even new accounts give you many, many gigs of space to store stuff. If after you compress them and they still don't fit you could split them up as mentioned above, email them to your through away account/accounts, and then delete them from your hard drive.

And maybe it's spelled 'throw'?
posted by ZaneJ. at 12:52 AM on June 15, 2009

No matter what method you use to hide this data, don't tell anyone. Anyone.
posted by jtron at 2:26 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

This application works well (Kruptos) and allows you to just encrypt a single directory or files for access only by password. I think most of the other encryption tools linked here have you create a virtual volume.

Is this a shared computer? If so, anything other than the usb hdd\thumb stick method will probably be noticed. They won't know what you're hiding but they will know you're hiding something.
posted by zephyr_words at 3:02 AM on June 15, 2009

I'd recommend Truecrypt or PGP desktop to create a encrypted volume. When it's decrypted, it will show up in My Computer like a hard drive and everything is encrypted on the fly. When you unmount the volume, it will disappear from my computer.

No matter what you do, you gotta worry about thumbnail caches and the search index caching the data names and faux location.

Also, if the XX.XXGB file is discovered, and deleted your S.O.L.

You could play with the security tab in the folders properties, but if he is a administrator he could override the settings.

Probably the best way though is encryption+flash or hard drive combined. I bought a 4GB Sony micro-vault flash drive for less then $20, 8GB was double that I think. Or check the sunday inserts for better deals.

Just make sure he doesn't ever have access to it though, ex: when your taking a shower, sleeping.
posted by glenno86 at 4:52 AM on June 15, 2009

Even 32 GB seems like a pretty small porn collection. If I wanted to keep porn around, I would get a WD Passport (they can be as large as 500 gb now I think) and use TrueCrypt on it. No need to hide it anywhere then--just keep it in plain sight and say it has all your personal files--your email backups, unfinished novels, etc.
posted by flavor at 5:31 AM on June 15, 2009

Came in here to second micro SD cards. Stupidly huge capacities are available in tiny objects (165 cubic mm) that are so easy to hide that your major risk is going to be simply forgetting where you left your secret data stash.
posted by flabdablet at 5:56 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could even make one or more of your micro SD cards bootable, giving you a completely portable private environment that will leave no trace of itself on the hard disk of any computer you boot it on.
posted by flabdablet at 6:01 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Actually, I would recommend a large capacity MP3 player, if you have one. I'm most familiar with the iPod interface, but while it's in MP3 player mode it's impossible to check what files have been transferred onto it for the sake of storage/transferring. You'll probably always keep it on you, and there's no plausible reason someone would borrow your iPod, connect it, and look through the hard drive.

There's also passport drives about the size of a cellphone with 500+ gb of storage space. They're definitely a lot less unwieldly than your typical external HDD, and they're a lot less easy to lose than an SD, micro SD or USB drive.
posted by Phire at 6:12 AM on June 15, 2009

External hard drives are indeed harder to lose than micro SD cards. But their existence is readily apparent, which makes their contents susceptible to discovery via the xkcd method.
posted by flabdablet at 7:41 AM on June 15, 2009

I haven't done this in quite some time, but I'm fairly sure you can use Truecrypt with a hidden volume inside the encrypted volume, which gives you plausible deniability. That way, if you are forced to open your 20 GB truecrypt volume, they will see some "real" files in there to make it look legitimate. But, you also have the hidden volume inside there which makes it a lot harder to detect there's lost space.
posted by jmd82 at 7:48 AM on June 15, 2009

It would help to have more info on the situation if you really want a good solution.

However, I can say one thing... if the person you're hiding files from doesn't have a reason to go looking for files, it's relatively easy to hide them by just sticking them deep within a tree of subfolders that looks "normal." Change their names and extensions to something innocuous if you have to. For example, stick them in some application's folder within Program Files, or in the Windows directory. There's generally no reason to go looking in there even if you are tech-savvy (unless something goes wrong with your computer, of course).
posted by joshrholloway at 8:08 AM on June 15, 2009

You want the thumb drive.

You also want to figure out how to properly scrub your history out of Windows and whatever media players you use.

Don't do the TrueCrypt stuff people mention above. If I found a 20GB file I didn't remember creating, and TrueCrypt suddenly installed on the computer, guess what 20GB file is getting deleted? And plausible deniability only works in the legal sense. If you pop open a 20GB file, and show me 3GB of shareware downloads, saying that's what you're keeping in this encrypted volume, I'm going to laugh right in your face as I instantly assume it's not just porn, but /illegal/ porn.
posted by Rendus at 8:17 AM on June 15, 2009

There is no perfect deceit. To believe there is only leaves the deceiver to be deceived.

(But yeah, thumb drive or SD card.)
posted by discountfortunecookie at 9:51 AM on June 15, 2009

Ah, I remember those days. What might work if you don't need/want the encryption route: set up two batch files. One to rename and move all the files into a directory that sounds like a windows system directory. Rename them something like Sysreadiqf.adc. Second batch file to undo all of this, rename and replace them in a single directory. Then rename the batch file with a system-ish name. When you want to access your files, change the extension to your batch files to .bat, and run.

No one is messing with what might be a system file.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 11:19 AM on June 15, 2009

It seems that much of the encryption-tool, subterfuge-y advice above might be overkill. If the person you're hiding this from is not already suspicious, then just do the ol' Purloined Letter trick: Dump all the porn into a directory called "Distance Learning" or "Star Trek" or something that would make the person go, "Hmm...nothing interesting in here."

Failing that, I nth the thumb drive suggestion.
posted by bluejayway at 1:40 PM on June 15, 2009

Why would you want a thumbdrive full of porn? You have any idea how often people borrow thumb drives just to transport a single file?

Anyway +1 Truecrypt, whether you use a thumb drive or not. Also get a portable media player so it won't leave any traces.
posted by MesoFilter at 5:04 PM on June 15, 2009

How about a bit of the combination of the above? Get TWO WD Passports (or similar external USB portable hard drives), both in the same colour. One is your LEGITIMATE backup of music, photos, movies, etc.

The other also contains the same backup of your music, etc, but also contains a nefarious hidden Truecrypted file named something like "\system volume information\_restore{999563C0-67F2-4C6C-8CBA-99E9D 28438DA}\RP251\A0020861.EXE "

Swap them in and out as appropriate.

I have found thumb drives are too easy to lose, although the tiny one I got from DealExtreme has been hanging on my keychain safely for over a year now.

(Yes, their website has been notoriously slow recently. But I have ordered off them several times, and I have always received the goods, sooner or later. 3 weeks was the longest).

(And yes, it's pink. But people are usually more amazed at how small it is, rather than how pink it is!)
posted by Diag at 4:52 AM on June 16, 2009

If you pop open a 20GB file, and show me 3GB of shareware downloads, saying that's what you're keeping in this encrypted volume, I'm going to laugh right in your face as I instantly assume it's not just porn, but /illegal/ porn.

I humbly disagree with your premise. Keep in mind that most truecrypt volumes are a static size. I learned the hard way that it's better to create a gigantic volume in case use for a long long time, rather than creating a new larger one and copying the old files when the old one's too small or keep multiple volumes.

Regarding keeping just shareware on the volume, you're not being creative enough.
posted by jmd82 at 8:14 AM on June 16, 2009

This is something that I created to do something similar a while back. Its a windows script and not an executable (you can open it in notepad to check out the contents).

It works as an instant file renamer. Place it in the folder where all other files are stored. Doubleclick the file - it will rename all files in a sequential number - 001.dll, 002.dll and so on and create a file called "exec.dll" (which is just a plain xml file containing the file mapping and can be opened in notepad).

When you doubleclick the file again, all files get reverted to their original names and the 'exec.dll' file gets deleted.

It should run on any Windows OS but since the file has a '.js' extension, web dev programs like Dreamweaver etc change the mapping. MefiMail me for a workaround.

It isn't fool proof - I mean anyone can open the 'exec.dll' file to check out what the files names actually were. So use it at your own risk.
posted by bbyboi at 10:22 PM on June 16, 2009

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