The TrueCrypt Mystery solved…or is it?

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The TrueCrypt Mystery solved…or is it?

TrueCrypt, widely used by many people to secure their sensitive data shocked its users when it posted a notification on its official website that “TrueCrypt is not secure” and recommended BitLocker instead. We covered this in a previous post but decided to dig a little deeper.

TrueCrypt’s developers are still a mystery and used to go under the handles of “ennead” and “syncon” which was later replaced by “The TrueCrypt Foundation”. It is noted that the TrueCrypt trademark was registered in the Czech Republic under name of “David Tesařík” and it appears that David. T has written as one of the devs of TrueCrypt before with a Czech e-mail address which would also perhaps explain the less than perfect English and the strange manner of the notice.

“David” was contacted by Steven Barnhart @stevebarnhart through one of the e-mails he found available and purportedly received several replies from him. A summary is as follows of a Twitter conversation between Professor Matthew Green (who heads the audit of TrueCrypt) and Steven.

TrueCrypt Developer “David”: “I were happy with the audit, it didn’t spark anything. We worked hard on this for 10 years, nothing lasts forever.”
Steven Barnhart: (Paraphrasing) Developer “personally” feels that fork is harmful: “The source is still available as a reference though.”
Steven Barnhart: “I asked and it was clear from the reply that “he” believes forking’s harmful because only they are really familiar w/code.”
Steven Barnhart: “Also said no government contact except one time inquiring about a ‘support contract.’ ”
TrueCrypt Developer “David”: Said “Bitlocker is ‘good enough’ and Windows was original ‘goal of the project.’ ”
Quoting TrueCrypt Developer David: “There is no longer interest.”

In light of this it is possible that the notice that “TrueCrypt is insecure” merely meant that

  • TrueCrypt will no longer be maintained by the original developers
  • Subsequent bugs found in TrueCrypt will NOT be fixed by the original developers
  • David believes that any code forks (developing from the existing code) are harmful since only the original developers are really familiar with the code.

All is not lost as the Open Crypto Audit project is still proceeding to audit TrueCrypt’s security and potentially build from it.

opencryptoaudit1 opencryptoaudit2

The latest working copy of TrueCrypt with full capabilities is still TrueCrypt 7.1a which you can download here (at entirely your own risk). You can use a site like OnlineMD5 to verify its hash. It is to be noted that Bruce Schneier on the audit project is moving back to PGPDisk to encrypt his data.

There is also an interesting viewpoint (if speculative) posted by Bill Cole on Krebson Security:

The iSec initial audit report was very critical of the TC code quality, and implied that it looks like the work of a single coder. There was no update for 2 years. The build process requires a 20 year old MS compiler, manually extracted from an exe installer.

Imagine yourself as the lead/solo developer working on TC. No one pays you for this, governments hate you, much of the crypto community is throwing rocks at you while your user community spends half of its time joining in with clueless paranoia and the other half whining about feature gaps (e.g. GPT boot disks.) You have to eat, so you have a real paying job. You’re not so young any more (doing the TC crap for a decade) and maybe the real job now includes responsibilities that crowd out side work. Or maybe you’ve got a family you love more than the whiny paranoids you encounter via TC. And now iSec is telling you your code is sloppy and unreadable, and that you should take on a buttload of mind-numbing work to pretty it up so they will have an easier time figuring out where some scotch-fueled coding session in 2005 ( or maybe something you inherited from a past developer) resulted in a gaping exploitable hole that everyone will end up calling a NSA backdoor.

Maybe you just toss it in. Why not? Anyone with a maintained OS has an integrated alternative and as imperfect as they may be, they are better than TC for most users. Maintaining TC isn’t really doing much good for many people and the audit just pushed a giant steaming pile of the least interesting sort of maintenance into top priority. Seems like a fine time to drop it and be your kids’ soccer coach.

If you’re into getting more confused, you can read a good summary and possible theories here.


  1. SUPER says:

    The mystery is why full TC encrypted drives die from time to time here. Lost a couple of HDs with all its content.

    This is presumely because of multi usage on Linux and Windows, a feature some people often highlight. I won’t reccomend that. TC first came up when Microsoft introduced Vista. Even at those days XP was poor crap from the past. That made me to look into Linux, there TC was first used, it was full commandline no GUI available. After some time it was a mix od Win Xp and Linux usage. The best solution looked like to use ntfs-3g on linux, then you have a stable aand seamless integration. But there must be an issue with filenames and such. It it astonisching how low level the issues can be: I got some friends in Japan, and you can be shure that somewhere in the filepath or filename itself Japanese Charackers are used. When they send you some photos almost no software can handle this. The microsoft integrated viever has it, and Irfanview.. Thats it, and thats not much choice. Is full unicode support hard to implement? I’m no developer, Some insight woulbe be great.

    Now I test dm-crypt/LUKS on Linux and Bitlocker on Windows. Lets see who wins.

  2. John McAnders says:

    The Truecrypt developers are chicken, they’re afraid of the NSA and haven’t any hair on their balls. Those yellow belly cowards, good riddance!

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