Secure Dropbox with ENCFS

Dropbox is awesome, it’s super useful and it’s free! Well, free for the first 2 gigs you use and then you pay for more storage, but 2 gigs might be all you need…

Usually as with all free online services you are the product, and despite Dropbox being a free and convenient file storage and sharing service, it’s also inherently insecure. Yes it is encrypted, but it is encrypted by Dropbox and you’ll never see or get access to the encryption keys. Only Dropbox, law enforcement, the government and anyone else who can gain access to your password has access the encryption keys, and your personal data of course…

So in looking for a solution to this issue, I first started encrypting files locally using GPG and uploading to Dropbox, but this was time consuming and not very practical. After some searching I discovered a free and open source application called ENCFS.

So what is ENCFS?

From the ENCFS web site:

“EncFS provides an encrypted filesystem in user-space. It runs without any special permissions and uses the FUSE library module to provide the filesystem interface.”

Basically it provides an encrypted folder or folders in dropbox that seamlessly encrypts and decrypts data on the fly. It works really well, and is a great way to secure your dropbox data.

ENCFS is a UNIX application that runs on all UNIX variants such as Linux, BSD and of course Mac OS X, or as it’s now called MacOS.

As I’m a Mac user, I’m going to focus on installing and using ENCFS on the Mac for use with Dropbox.  This is a command line application, and it is setup and used completely from within the terminal window, so if that is something that you are not comfortable with you might want to move along…

Still here? Ok cool, here we go…

Before you can install any native UNIX applications on the Mac you will need to install a package manager. There are a number package managers available, but probably the best one out there is called ‘Homebrew’ and can be installed from the OS X terminal very simply.

Instructions are HERE.

Once you have successfully installed Homebrew, you are now ready to start installing ENCFS.

First you’ll need to install the OSX Fuse filesystem, and this is done by typing or cut & paste the command below into the TERMINAL and hitting enter:

brew install Caskroom/cask/osxfuse

You will need to enter your password during the installation.

Once you have installed Fuse, you are now ready to install ENCFS. To do this, by typing or cut & paste the command below into the TERMINAL and hitting enter:

brew install encfs

Once installed, you’ll need to create the ENCFS encrypted volume. To do this type or cut & paste the command below into TERMINAL and hit enter:

encfs ~/Dropbox/encrypted ~/Private

This will create an encrypted directory in Dropbox, and a local directory. The local directory will be used to give you access to your files once decrypted, while the Dropbox location will create an encrypted volume. You’ll be asked several questions after running this command. The default paranoia mode (type p when prompted) should work well, but you can also type x for expert configuration mode.

You’ll also be prompted to create a password for your encrypted volume. Do NOT forget this password. If you do, you will not be able to access your files again. Not Ever…

ENCFS is now installed and ready to use!

To mount the encrypted volume, fire up TERMINAL and type as before:

encfs ~/Dropbox/encrypted ~/Private

You’ll then see the mounted volume in Finder and on your desktop (if set to show attached or network drives).

Use this mounted drive to read / write data and to store your files.  Ignore the newly created and encrypted folder in Dropbox.  Dropbox will store your encrypted files and sync them across to all your computers.

If you place files directly in the /Dropbox/encrypted folder, they won’t be encrypted.

That’s it!  Enjoy your secure Dropbox.

 

Basic Encryption

What does someone do when they are curious about internet security and privacy, but doesn’t know where to start?

It can be difficult and a little daunting for someone, where convenience is a much higher commodity than security, and unfortunately you cannot have both.  It’s one or the other, well sort of…

So, I’ve put together a few video walk throughs on how to get started down the path of securing your files on your Mac or PC.  The Mac is above the the PC walk through is here.

Enjoy…

Yet another reissue…

Another reissue of Beatle material has arrived, but this time it’s really, really worth it. Well at least thats what I keep telling myself.

The Beatles 1 was first released back in 2000 as a compilation album of all of the bands 27 number 1 hits achieved over their 8 years of album making. Now 15 years later, the set has been revisited and “updated”. On the surface the is update is basically a sonic one, as the tracks have all be remixed and remastered and wow, do they sound fucking awesome.

The greatness of the sound is primarily because the 2009 masters where not used, and each track was individually revisited by Giles Martin (George Martin’s son), and it is a huge improvement. It makes me wonder if The Beatles catalog will be “fixed” by Giles in the near future? But I doubt it, simply because not that much time has past since it was last “fixed” in 2009.

Another major update in this re-release is the exclusive limited edition of The Beatles 1,  labeled 1+ which contains not only the remastered CD, but 2 Blu Ray discs containing hi-resolution audio and remastered 1080p videos of all of the songs included on the album, along with a wide assortment of videos covering the bands 8 year recording career.

With its seriously upgraded audio and video, The Beatles 1+ is a must buy for any fan to add to their collection.

Hey Bulldog

bulldogLennon

I appear to have stumbled across an unseen picture of John Lennon quite by accident.  I was watching the newly remastered Beatles Promo Video of “Hey Bulldog” in glorious 1080p, and the above image flashed on the screen just for a second.

I immediately paused the video and screen captured the picture above. (Click to get the full resolution)  

The same old images of The Beatles continually make the rounds, so its always a treat to discover a new one.

 

TRIM support in OSX

ssd

Many Mac users where extremely disappointed last year, when it was discovered that OSX 10.10 or Yosemite had apparently abandoned TRIM support for all non-Apple SSD’s, thus severely limiting the upgradability of older Macs.

What this basically meant was that if you purchased an Apple Computer that came with an SSD, then TRIM was automatically enabled.  In fact, you’s be hard pressed these days to find a Mac that doesn’t come with an SSD as default, or at least offer one as an upgrade at time of purchase.

But if you had an older Mac that came with a mechanical or ‘spinning’ Hard Drive and wished to upgrade to an SSD, there was simply no way to enable TRIM. It was permanently disabled.

Before OSX 10.10 there was a utility called ‘Trim Enabler‘, which once installed would activate Mac TRIM support on all non-Apple SSD’s. This utility while being a little clunky, did the job and seemed to work well. But all this came to an end once Yosemite shipped in the fall of 2014.

So what’s the big deal about TRIM?

The Trim command is designed to enable the operating system to notify the SSD which pages no longer contain valid data due to erases either by the user or operating system itself. During a delete operation, the OS will mark the sectors as free for new data and send a Trim command to the SSD to mark them as not containing valid data. After that the SSD knows not to preserve the contents of the block when writing a page, resulting in less write amplification with fewer writes to the flash, higher write speed, and increased drive life.” – Wikipedia

Simply put, TRIM not only extends the life of your SSD but it also keeps it efficiently running at top performance.

Luckily all is not lost if you are running OSX 10.10.4 or above.  Apple has, without fanfare, secretly enabled TRIM support in Yosemite and going forward TRIM support will also be built in by default in the upcoming 10.11 or El Capitan.

So how do you enable TRIM support in 10.10.4 or above?  It’s very simple.

TRIM needs to be enabled from the OS X TERMINAL.

To get to the terminal on your Mac, you can launch Spotlight and just start typing TERMINAL and it will appear, click to launch.

or

Open your applications folder and navigate to the UTILITIES folder, TERMINAL will be located there.

Once TERMINAL is open, type or cut and paste the command below and hit enter.

sudo trimforce enable

You’ll be prompted to enter your password, do so and hit enter.

Thats it, TRIM is now enabled on your Mac!