VeraCrypt 1.17 on Windows 10
|Developer(s)||IDRIX (based in Paris, France)|
|Initial release||June 22, 2013|
|Stable release||1.24-Update7 (August 7, 2020)|
|Written in||C, C++, Assembly|
|Platform||IA-32 and x64|
|Available in||37 languages|
|Type||Disk encryption software|
VeraCrypt is a source-available freeware utility used for on-the-fly encryption (OTFE). It can create a virtual encrypted disk within a file or encrypt a partition or (in Windows) the entire storage device with pre-boot authentication.
VeraCrypt is a fork of the discontinued TrueCrypt project. It was initially released on 22 June 2013 and produced its latest release (version 1.24) on 6 October 2019. Many security improvements have been implemented and issues raised by TrueCrypt code audits have been fixed. VeraCrypt includes optimized implementations of cryptographic hash functions and ciphers which boost performance on modern CPUs.
License and source model
VeraCrypt inherited a substantial amount of code from its predecessor TrueCrypt, and also inherited the source-available TrueCrypt License for those files. This license is not one of many widely used open-source licenses and is not a free software license according to the Free Software Foundation (FSF) license list, as it contains distribution and copyright-liability restrictions.
Individual ciphers supported by VeraCrypt are AES, Serpent, Twofish, Camellia, and Kuznyechik. The Magma cipher was removed in version 1.19 in response to a security audit. Additionally, ten different combinations of cascaded algorithms are available: AES–Twofish, AES–Twofish–Serpent, Camellia–Kuznyechik, Camellia–Serpent, Kuznyechik–AES, Kuznyechik–Serpent–Camellia, Kuznyechik–Twofish, Serpent–AES, Serpent–Twofish–AES, and Twofish–Serpent. The cryptographic hash functions available for use in VeraCrypt are RIPEMD-160, SHA-256, SHA-512, Streebog and Whirlpool.
Modes of operation
The header key and the secondary header key (XTS mode) are generated using PBKDF2 with a 512-bit salt and 200,000 to 655,331 iterations used by default (which could be customized by user to start as low as 2,048), depending on the underlying hash function used.
As with its predecessor TrueCrypt, VeraCrypt supports plausible deniability by allowing a single "hidden volume" to be created within another volume. In addition, the Windows versions of VeraCrypt have the ability to create and run a hidden encrypted operating system whose existence may be denied.
The VeraCrypt documentation lists many ways in which VeraCrypt's hidden volume deniability features may be compromised (e.g. by third-party software which may leak information through temporary files, thumbnails, etc., to unencrypted disks) and possible ways to avoid this.
VeraCrypt supports parallelized:63 encryption for multi-core systems and, under Microsoft Windows, pipelined read and write operations (a form of asynchronous processing):63 to reduce the performance hit of encryption and decryption. On processors supporting the AES-NI instruction set, VeraCrypt supports hardware-accelerated AES to further improve performance.:64 On 64-bit CPUs VeraCrypt uses optimized assembly implementation of Twofish and Camellia.
- The VeraCrypt development team considered the TrueCrypt storage format too vulnerable to a National Security Agency (NSA) attack, so it created a new format incompatible with that of TrueCrypt. This is one of the main differences between VeraCrypt and its competitor CipherShed, which continues to use the TrueCrypt format. VeraCrypt is still capable of opening and converting volumes in the TrueCrypt format.
- An independent security audit of TrueCrypt released 29 September 2015 found TrueCrypt includes two vulnerabilities in the Windows installation driver allowing an attacker arbitrary code execution and privilege escalation via DLL hijacking. This was fixed in VeraCrypt in January 2016.
- While TrueCrypt uses 1,000 iterations of the PBKDF2-RIPEMD160 algorithm for system partitions, VeraCrypt uses either 200,000 or 327,661 iterations by default (which is customizable by user to be as low as 2,048), depending on the algorithm used. For standard containers and other partitions, VeraCrypt uses 655,331 iterations of RIPEMD160 and 500,000 iterations of SHA-2 and Whirlpool by default (which is customizable by user to be as low as 16,000). While these default settings make VeraCrypt slower at opening encrypted partitions, it also makes password-guessing attacks slower.
- Additionally, since version 1.12, a new feature called "Personal Iterations Multiplier" (PIM) provides a parameter whose value is used to control the number of iterations used by the header key derivation function, thereby making brute-force attacks potentially even more difficult. Veracrypt out of the box uses a reasonable PIM value to improve security, but users can provide higher value to enhance security. The primary downside of this feature is that it makes the process of opening encrypted archives even slower.
- A vulnerability in the bootloader was fixed on Windows and various optimizations were made as well. The developers added support for SHA-256 to the system boot encryption option and also fixed a ShellExecute security issue. Linux and macOS users benefit from support for hard drives with sector sizes larger than 512. Linux also received support for the NTFS formatting of volumes.
- Unicode passwords are supported on all operating systems since version 1.17 (except for system encryption on Windows).
- VeraCrypt added the capability to boot system partitions using UEFI in version 1.18a.
- Option to enable/disable support for the TRIM command for both system and non-system drives was added in version 1.22.
- Erasing the system encryption keys from RAM during shutdown/reboot helps mitigate some cold boot attacks, added in version 1.24.
- RAM encryption for keys and passwords on 64-bit systems was added in version 1.24.
An audit of version 1.18 was conducted by QuarksLab on behalf of the Open Source Technology Improvement Fund (OSTIF), which took 32 man-days and was published on 17 October 2016. The major vulnerabilities identified in this audit were resolved in version 1.19, released the same day.
There are several kinds of attacks that all software-based disk encryption is vulnerable to. As with TrueCrypt, the VeraCrypt documentation instructs users to follow various security precautions to mitigate these attacks, several of which are detailed below.
Encryption keys stored in memory
VeraCrypt stores its keys in RAM; on some personal computers DRAM will maintain its contents for several seconds after power is cut (or longer if the temperature is lowered). Even if there is some degradation in the memory contents, various algorithms may be able to recover the keys. This method, known as a cold boot attack (which would apply in particular to a notebook computer obtained while in power-on, suspended, or screen-locked mode), was successfully used to attack a file system protected by TrueCrypt versions 4.3a and 5.0a in 2008. With version 1.24, VeraCrypt added the option of encrypting the in-RAM keys and passwords on 64-bit Windows systems, with a CPU overhead of less than 10%, and the option of erasing all encryption keys from memory when a new device is connected.
VeraCrypt documentation states that VeraCrypt is unable to secure data on a computer if an attacker physically accessed it and VeraCrypt is then used on the compromised computer by the user again. This does not affect the common case of a stolen, lost, or confiscated computer. The attacker having physical access to a computer can, for example, install a hardware or a software keylogger, a bus-mastering device capturing memory or install any other malicious hardware or software, allowing the attacker to capture unencrypted data (including encryption keys and passwords) or to decrypt encrypted data using captured passwords or encryption keys. Therefore, physical security is a basic premise of a secure system. Attacks such as this are often called "evil maid attacks".
Some kinds of malware are designed to log keystrokes, including typed passwords, that may then be sent to the attacker over the Internet or saved to an unencrypted local drive from which the attacker might be able to read it later, when they gain physical access to the computer.
Trusted Platform Module
The FAQ section of the VeraCrypt website states that the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) cannot be relied upon for security, because if the attacker has physical or administrative access to a computer and it is used afterwards, the computer could have been modified by the attacker: e.g. a malicious component – such as a hardware keystroke logger – could have been used to capture the password or other sensitive information. Since the TPM does not prevent an attacker from maliciously modifying the computer, VeraCrypt does not and will not support TPM.
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