Encrypting a USB thumbdrive for OS X and Windows?
December 7, 2005 11:50 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to password protect the contents of a USB thumbdrive that will be accessed from an OS X and Windows platform.

Ideally, it would be nice to create a virtual encrupted disk within a file (ala TrueCrypt). I'll settle for some archive format. But whatever I end up with has to be cross-platform between OS X and a Windows box, and have relatively strong encryption. Freeware would be very preferable.

Does such a thing exist?
posted by jaimev to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
you could just use a password-protected zip file. both winzip (windows) and stuffit (mac) (apparently version 10 sucks, so i point you to version 9) support zip compression.

you could also see if you could find a small usb card reader that supports the SD format and use the card-in-reader as a thumbdrive.

sorry i haven't got anything more elegant.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 12:25 PM on December 7, 2005

For what it's worth, Ask Slashdot covered this question a few months ago. It seems that no one managed to come up with a good solution.
posted by chrismear at 12:42 PM on December 7, 2005

GPG (GnuPG) will work for you and it's free. No 'virtual filesystem' though.
posted by Mike C. at 1:01 PM on December 7, 2005

I was asking myself a similar question just last month. I wanted to keep a strong encrypted file on my thumbdrive to store my various passwords and keys. And I work in Linux and Windows, so I wanted to use the same encryption tools on both platforms.

I found bcrypt, which is a cross-platform Blowfish encryption tool. In a folder on my thumbdrive I put the windows and Linux bcrypt executable files, and scripts for Windows and Linux which will use bcrypt to decrypt the file (prompting for password of course), view it in nano (a text editor), then re-encrypt the file (prompting for the password again).

You could probably gin up something similar: ie. store your files as a ZIP, encrypt it with bcrypt, then have scripts for OS X and Windows to automatically encrypt/decrypt the contents when you want to access it. Sounds like a kludge, but after four hours of searching, poking and prodding utilites this is what I came up with.
posted by chuma at 1:02 PM on December 7, 2005

TrueCrypt should do what you want.

Free open-source disk encryption software for Windows XP/2000/2003 and Linux
Main Features:
It can create a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mount it as a real disk.

It can encrypt an entire hard disk partition or a device, such as USB memory stick, floppy disk, etc.

Provides two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password:

1) Hidden volume (more information may be found here).

2) No TrueCrypt volume can be identified (TrueCrypt volumes cannot be distinguished from random data).

Encryption algorithms: AES-256, Blowfish (448-bit key), CAST5, Serpent (256-bit key), Triple DES, and Twofish (256-bit key). Mode of operation: LRW (CBC supported as legacy).

Based on Encryption for the Masses (E4M) 2.02a, which was conceived in 1997.
Further information regarding the features of the software may be found in the documentation

posted by apark at 1:18 PM on December 7, 2005

BTW, located at http://www.truecrypt.org/
posted by apark at 1:19 PM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: apark...I agree, that TrueCrypt would be ideal, except it hasn't been ported to OS X, which is what I'm looking for.
posted by jaimev at 1:35 PM on December 7, 2005

Ah, you're right. Sorry I missed that part. :(
posted by apark at 2:52 PM on December 7, 2005

Wow, sounds great, though! Get on it, X-heads!
posted by squirrel at 4:36 PM on December 7, 2005

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