Encrypt your disks on Linux

Encrypted volumes have long since ceased to be an exception or luxury. Corporate policies and compliance rules often demand encryption for critical data. This article looks at tools for disk encryption on Linux.

It’s no coincidence that portable computers have pushed desktop PCs into the background over the past 10 years. Today, users only need desktop systems for computationally intensive work such as video rendering or games. For everything else, even mid-range laptops are now perfectly adequate. But laptops also have one disadvantage: They are far easier to steal than a standalone PC. An appropriate insurance policy can cushion the cost of replacing the device in case of theft. However, it is not so easy to compensate for the loss of data.

Corporations and users can only protect themselves effectively against this kind of horror scenario by completely encrypting the data carriers in the device, from USB sticks to external hard drives. How can a Linux user best secure disk data by means of encryption? This article describes some leading encryption methods and tools for Linux.

Cryptsetup with LUKS

Just about everyone who has ever dealt with encryption on Linux will have come across the abbreviation LUKS [1], which stands for Linux Unified Key Setup. The LUKS standard describes what disk encryption should look like on Linux (Figure 1). LUKS is based on the Cryptsetup tool, which in turn uses the Dmcrypt kernel module of the Linux kernel to manage encrypted volumes.

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