HOWTO: Fully encrypted vServer with Ubuntu 12.04

In this blog post I am going to demonstrate how to easily setup a virtual server at Hetzner. This setup will work for most other vServer operators as well, but some adjustments may be required. Prerequisite is that you are able to access the console of  the server while booting, as you need to be able to enter the passphrase. You also need to be able to boot into some sort of “Rescue System” for the setup. This is no in-place setup. In Hetzner’s “Robot” this is pretty easy.

One thing to consider regarding security: fully encrypting a vServer might seem… senseless, as the host operator can easily copy the whole memory of the VM while running and extract the key this way. True. There is no way around this fact. My reason for wanting a fully encrypted system is more of the way that I want to be sure that the data is encrypted on the storage system. I want to protect from being unable to ever fully wipe the persistent data from disk in case I cancel the VM, the VM gets moved to a new host, or a failed disk is sent in to the manufacturer. For me, this is a compromise I can accept. YMMV.

You can also try this HOWTO under VirtualBox with the System Rescue CD ISO images. Actually, that’s where I verified all steps are working.

So, let’s dive into the fun of the HOWTO. BEWARE! THIS TUTORIAL WILL WIPE ALL DATA ON YOUR VSERVER! I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY IF YOU LOSE DATA!  IT MIGHT ALSO NOT WORK FOR YOU. USE THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK!

The following steps will partition the disk, setup LVM and LUKS, install Ubuntu 12.04 and prepare the system for reboot. Most parts can be copied line-by-line. Please beware that there are some parts in this tutorial that needs to be adjusted: UUIDs of partitions, hostname, username, and most important: network setup.

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TrueCrypt 5.1 is out!

The new TrueCrypt 5.1 version finally enables hibernation with pre-boot authentication. I am going to try it out as soon as possible. A big thank you to all the developers!

Update 2008-03-16: Today I finally had time to test out pre-boot authentication. It simply worked great. No problems at all. As I was using it on a notebook, I was very happy about the possibility to interrupt and resume the encryption process.

[tags]encryption, windows, truecrypt[/tags]

TrueCrypt 5 is out!

ImageAfter quite some time, a new version of my favorite encryption tool is out: TrueCrypt developers have released version 5 of their product, introducing a new killer feature (among others): System Volume Encryption with pre-boot authentification (only Windows 2000/XP/Vista). This means, that TrueCrypt will encrypt everything on your system drive, including page- and hibernation file, finally making hibernation a safe and easy possibility.

I am going to look into this next week, as I need my notebook on Saturday (just in case anything goes wrong).

Update 2007-02-08: As my first commenter below points out, it seems hibernation is disabled by TrueCrypt while having your system partition encrypted. I don’t really understand why at the moment, but I will investigate further. For me this is a primary show-stopper, as this was the long-awaited functionality I was waiting for.

Nitpickers Corner¹: Of course I am aware why encryption and hibernation in general are no-goes together, but I don’t understand why this is an issue when full-system encryption is enabled.

Update 2007-02-08 (again): Ok, in this TrueCrypt forum thread they explain why they cannot support it at the moment: Windows treats the hibernation file differently, it seems to bypass the TrueCrypt driver and therefore would still write keys to disk without encryption. Ok, still get to wait for my dream feature then, but I still refuse to buy PGP 🙂 Thanks to the developers for their great work anyhow!

¹ a tribute to Raymond Chen 🙂

[tags]security, encryption, truecrypt, windows, linux, osx[/tags]