Store files on Dropbox with privacy

Dropbox is a great and simple tool for storing a little bit of data “in the cloud” for free.

But you should have no expectation of privacy when doing this – we know that government and law enforcement authorities can read your files and are actively doing so. You may choose to make the personal choice that you have nothing to hide, therefore you don’t mind others snooping around your stuff. But if you handle other people’s information in any way (e.g. you work with client data, pupil data, patient data, research data etc), exposing this data to (foreign) government authorities is not really an option you’re authorised to use. You have a duty to protect other people’s data you handle, particularly when you have been trusted to be a safe keeper of their data.

Therefore, if you want to use something like Dropbox while protecting your data, you should:

  1. Install the free TrueCrypt encryption software on your computer
  2. Create a TrueCrypt file container. This will be the file that will contain all sensitive files you need to protect. Let’s call it “private.tc”.
  3. When you open (“mount”) “private.tc” in TrueCrypt it will appear similar to a USB drive on your computer. Anything you save there, will be protected by the TrueCrypt container and will not be readable to others.
  4. Save & close (an operation called “unmount”) your new “private.tc” container.
  5. Now move “private.tc” in your Dropbox folder and wait for it to be uploaded to dropbox.
  6. Congratulations! Now your private data is “in the cloud”, but readable only by you, with the passphrase you setup for your private file container.
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Help! My computer just fell in the bath.

Oh my. Unless you were trying to hit someone with it, chances are that your (one would hope) laptop was powered on at the time. This is unfortunate, as electronics don’t like water, but powered-on electronics, with electrical current running through them, are plain dangerous when submerged into water.

First of all drain the bath tub and fish out your laptop in a safe way – assume that it will give you an electrical shock if you touch water or your laptop with bare hands.

In the unlikely case the laptop has not turned itself off already, TURN IT OFF NOW! Disconnect any cables, external drives etc you may have connected and remove the hard drive as quickly as possible to potentially save your data.

Now you need to leave it out to dry naturally – DO NOT use a blow dryer or anything of the sort. This will take time.

If you would like help recovering your data into a (probably) new computer, let me know.