Security and Encryption FAQ

Security and Encryption FAQ Revision 16.1

by Doctor Who

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

Article 12 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Disclaimer and justification for this FAQ.

Many countries operate a legal system designed to suppress individual freedom. Such countries often do not obey basic human rights. The law in these countries may be based on guilty until proven innocent. My intention in offering this FAQ is to legally challenge these threats to our freedom. It is not my intention to promote any illegal act, but to offer people the option of freedom of choice. How they use that freedom is entirely down to the individual.

For the suspicious and sharp-eyed who will notice that my key has changed, allow me to state that I had deliberately destroyed my old key.

As stated at the end of the FAQ, the events of 9/11 made me do a re-think. On balance, I believe that this FAQ is still justified, if only for reasons of protecting the rights of the individual against an oppressive Government. Thus its re-emergence.

Revisions in this version of the FAQ include BestCrypt version 7. BestCrypt has been included because the latest version has a particularly useful feature that offers a form of plausible deniability that is all but undefeatable, so far as I know. More of this later in the FAQ.

Other changes with respect to earlier versions include an alternative to Freedom. Because Zero Knowledge closed down the Freedom network in October 2001, I have had to find another way to maximise privacy and anonymity whilst online.

The FAQ has 2 main Sections.

Part 1 concentrates on passive security. It is intended to be useful to both posters and lurkers.

Part 2 is to maximise your privacy whilst online, particularly for Email and Usenet posting.

I have assumed three security levels:

Level 1. For those who wish to protect their files from unauthorised access. These users are not too concerned at being found with encrypted data on their computer.

Level 2. For those who not only wish to hide their private data, but to hide the fact that they have such data. This might be an essential requirement for anyone who lives in an inquisitorial police state where human rights are dubious, or where there is no equivalent to the United States 5th Amendment.

Level 3. For those who not only need all that is offered by level 2, but additionally wish to protect themselves from hackers whilst online and snoopers who may try and compromise either their software or add substitute software that could compromise their privacy.

Part 1 explains the 3 security levels and offers help in achieving them.

1. How does encryption work?

Essentially the plaintext is combined with a mathematical algorithm (a set of rules for processing data) such that the original text cannot be deduced from the output file, hence the data is now in encrypted form. To enable the process to be secure, a key (called the passphrase) is combined with this algorithm. Obviously the process must be reversible, but only with the aid of the correct key. Without the key, the process should be extremely difficult. The mathematics of the encryption should be openly available for peer review. At first sight this may appear to compromise the encryption, but this is far from the case. Peer review ensures that there are no “back doors” or crypto weaknesses within the program. Although the algorithm is understood, it is the combination of its use with the passphrase that ensures secrecy. Thus the passphrase is critical to the security of the data.

2. I want my Hard Drive and my Email to be secure, how can I achieve this?

You need Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) for your Email and either Scramdisk or BestCrypt for your private files on your computer.

PGP is here:

Scramdisk is here:

BestCrypt is here:

Scramdisk has now metamorphosed into a commercial program called DriveCrypt. The source code is not published for either BestCrypt nor DriveCrypt. The older version of Scramdisk came with published code and some are sticking with it for that reason.

The only likely problem facing most people is ensuring whichever you choose is compatible with your operating system.

Although most people make such decisions for themselves, I have to say that I hate Windows ME. I found it very fragile. I now use Windows 2000 Professional. I have no experience of XP, believing that new Microsoft products are always suspect and best left well alone for at least 18 months after launch.

3. What is the difference between these encryption Programs?

PGP uses a system of encryption called public key cryptography. Two different keys are used. One key is secret and the other is made public.

Anybody sending you mail simply encrypts their message to you with your public key. They can get this key either directly from you or from a public key server. It is analogous to someone sending you a box and a self locking padlock for you to send them secret papers, when only they have the key to open the box.

The public key is obviously not secret – in fact it should be spread far and wide so that anybody can find it if they wish to send you encrypted Email. The easiest way to ensure this is by submitting it to a public key server.

The only way to decrypt this incoming message is with your secret key. It is impossible to decrypt using the same key as was used to encrypt the message, your public key. Thus it is called asymmetrical encryption. It is a one way system of encryption, requiring the corresponding (secret) key to decrypt. PGP is simplicity itself to install and use. It even offers to send your newly generated public key to the key server.

For your normal hard drive encryption, you will need a symmetrical type of encryption program. The same key is used for both encryption and decryption. Scramdisk and BestCrypt are of this type and especially good because they are “On-The-Fly” (OTF) programs. This means that the program will only decrypt on an as needed basis into RAM memory. More about this later in the FAQ.

One question often asked by newbies is whether the passphrase is stored somewhere within the encrypted file. No. The passphrase is passed through a hash, such as SHA1. This is a one-way encryption. It is the hash output that is stored within the encrypted container. The program will compare this hash with the hash it produces from the passphrase that you type in to mount (open) the container. If they are identical, the container will be decipherable and will be mounted.

4. I have Windows, am I safe?

Windows is definitely not a security-orientated program. One simple method of improving your computer security is to disable the Windows swapfile. To ensure reliable operation and dependant on what programs you run, you may need several hundred megabytes of RAM. If you are serious about your privacy, I would recommend investing in as much RAM as you can afford and turn off the swapfile. I suggest a minimum of 256 Megs and preferably double or even quadruple that.

If you have Windows Media Player, go to View -> Options -> Player and uncheck “Allow Internet sites to uniquely identify Your player” It appears that Microsoft have done it again. The default is for this box to be checked. Any Web site could theoretically get your id from within your Windows registry with this checked. MS claim it is to help identify users when they download copyrighted music. But anybody could be using this crack for their own purposes, so protect yourself by unchecking it.

BestCrypt version 7 will encrypt the swapfile. I have not been able to test this claim but if true, it is a remarkable achievement and one wonders why nobody else has thought to do it.

5. Apart from the Swapfile and Media Player, what else can Windows reveal to a snooper?

Windows can store all sorts of information, such as the names of files recently opened, the names of Web sites you have visited and much more.

If you have not previously used encryption and/or you have contentious material lying around in plaintext form in all sorts of supposedly hidden places on your system, my strong recommendation is to re-format your hard drive. Despite the format, the original data will still be there and may be recoverable. To minimise this risk, I suggest you run a free space wipe utility before re-installing all your programs. One such is Zapempty, which will run on Dos or NTFS.

Zapempty is here:

Assuming you have a clean system to start with, you can then proceed with creating your encrypted drives and sub-folders within those drives and finally installing all the programs you intend using.

Most modern computers now allow you to boot directly from the CD-ROM. If this is the case (it is easily tested, just insert your Windows CD-ROM and do a re-boot), you need not bother about installing the system files after the format.

6. Are there other OTF programs, apart from Scramdisk and BestCrypt?

Yes, there are several. But to keep this FAQ manageable I mention only those I can recommend from personal experience.

For level 1 security, it is difficult to fault Scramdisk, particularly because the source code has been published. This is a very important consideration and sets it apart from BestCrypt and DriveCrypt. If you require level 2 security then I would recommend BestCrypt as the next best choice. More about this later in the FAQ.

7. How difficult is it to break one of these programs?

Very difficult, in fact for all practical purposes, it is considered impossible. In most cases, the weakest link will be your passphrase.

Always make it long. Remember that every extra character you enter makes a dictionary search for the right phrase twice as long. Both Scramdisk and BestCrypt ultimately limit the strength of the algorithm to 160 bits. This is because the hash program they use, SHA1, outputs a maximum of 160 bits. You will find that the passphrase input page for Scramdisk shows 4 lines for inputting your passphrase. Each line can hold a maximum of 40 characters. Thus a maximum of a 160-character passphrase is possible. A character is equal to slightly more than 1 bit. Most people will use a somewhat shorter passphrase, but I would recommend that you at the least spread your passphrase across the four lines, even if you do not fill each line.

8. Why?

Because any passphrase cracker cannot find the correct key until it has exhausted a key search as wide as the last character you enter. A strong hint that you should make sure the last character of your passphrase is well along the bottom line! For higher security you should spread it around on all four lines, that is why they are there.

Be sure that if any serious snooper wants to view your secret data, they will find a way without wasting their time attempting a brute force attack upon your Scramdisk container. In some countries rubber hose cryptography may be the rule. Anybody living in such a country needs level 2 security at the very least. In some “civilised” countries there are more sinister methods, such as tempest or the use of a trojan which require level 3 security (see later in FAQ).

9. I have heard that there are programs that HIDE and Encrypt, are these any good?

Snake oil! They are not even worth considering for level 1 security. Keep to the recommended programs if you are seriously in need of privacy.

10. What about simple file by file encryption?

You could use the Windows version of PGP. It comes with PGP Tools, which will allow you to encrypt any file on your computer. Only encrypt these single files on the assumption of a level 1 security. There are many others.

11. Do I need to wipe as opposed to simply deleting files within the Scramdisk or BestCrypt drives?

If the encrypted container is sufficiently secure for your normal files, it must obviously be secure for deleted files. Therefore, it is unnecessary to wipe files within the encrypted drive.

12. Do I need to wipe an unwanted encrypted container?

Depends. I used to say, yes. But if you are truly confident of the strength of your passphrase, then just delete it. However, if you created the container with a weak passphrase and it contains critical data, definitely wipe it. Wiping will ensure that the encrypted keyfile material at the head of the file is over-written. It is only strictly necessary to wipe the first 10K of the file to ensure this.

13. Can I use Disk compression to increase the apparent size of the drive?

Not with Scramdisk. BestCrypt allows this on NTFS files, provided you do not use its steganography feature (see later in FAQ).

14. Can I encrypt a floppy with Scramdisk and BestCrypt?

Yes, both allow floppies to be encrypted. In fact they also support encryption on Jaz and CD-RW drives. You can even run Scramdisk off a floppy in what is called “Traveller” mode. In this mode there are no Scramdisk related VxD or INI files on your hard drive to worry about. But you do have the problem of where to hide your Scramdisk floppy.

Son of Scramdisk, DriveCrypt is a different matter. I tested the try- before-you-buy version and it left all sorts of traces throughout my registry, despite uninstalling. I have also tested DriveCrypt registered and I found it un-usable on my system using NTFS files. This may just be an artefact of some conflict on my system. I hear others have had various problems, so it is not just me. Since the source code has not been published for either DriveCrypt or BestCrypt the choice may as well be based on whatever features appeal most strongly.

15. Does using Encryption slow things up?

There is a small speed penalty because your computer has to encrypt to write to disk and decrypt to read from it. In practice on a modern machine, using the Blowfish (or Rijndael with BestCrypt) cipher, the encryption is totally transparent in normal use.

16. Do I need a PGP passphrase if I store my key rings within my encrypted drive?

It is good security practice to use a passphrase, but for level 3 security it is essential because level 3 security is intended to ensure your secret data are safe if attempts are made to hack into your computer whilst online or if your computer is compromised in your absence.

17. I use Mac, OS2, Linux, (fill in your choice), what about me?

Scramdisk is now available for Win95/98 and NT/Win2000. I believe a Linux version has been promised… BestCrypt supports Win95/98/ME/NT/2000 and Linux.

Meanwhile you could look here if you’re a Mac user:



18. How can I ensure I do not leave traces of unwanted plaintext files on my system?

Try Evidence Eliminator. Apart from its unfortunate name, it is remarkably efficient at finding lost temp files and info. But I am concerned at its registry cleaning. I found it unconvincing with old entries.

Get it here: (30 day trial period on offer).

I used to recommend a form of registry sanitation involving a bat file, but newer versions of Windows may not offer this facility.

19. What programs do I put in my newly created Encrypted Drive?

You need to take care over which programs to choose. Some news readers and image Viewers and E-mailers can write critical information to your Registry.

For what it’s worth, here are my choices for these critical programs:

(A) Agent (or FreeAgent) for the newsreader, and basic Emailing.

Agent is here:

(B) For your Email I have 3 different recommendations:

i. Agent, as mentioned above

ii. Quicksilver, available here:

111. JBN2, here: Http://

Agent is simple and very easy to use. It can only be used for plaintext Emails on its own. However, it can be used in conjunction with a remote host server for posting anonymously (see later in FAQ).

Quicksilver is recommended for secure Email and Usenet posting. It now also supports Nym creation. It is an excellent program for both anonymous Email and posting anonymously to Usenet. It is still in beta testing mode. Most importantly, Quicksilver is very easy to learn to use. It uses the Mixmaster remailers for posting. These are considered far more secure than the earlier Cypherpunk remailers.

All three of these programs will also work with PGP. Agent will require you to copy and paste, but the other two have built-in support and work seamlessly with PGP. I particularly commend Quicksilver for its intuitive ease of use. This makes NYM maintenance much simpler.

(C) For browsing I like Netscape Gold the best. This is an early version of the Netscape browser, but all the better for that. You can direct it to locate its Bookmarks file on the encrypted drive. Later versions of both Netscape and Microsoft Explorer want to create user profiles and worse can write data in unwanted and hidden, but potentially accessible folders. They are also very dependent on Java and Active X. These are bad news as far as security is concerned.

Therefore, be sure to disable Java with Netscape.

I most strongly urge you NOT to use MS Internet Explorer. It will insist on keeping things within Windows in many hidden folders. This is especially the case for MS Mail and MS News and Outlook. Of course, you can always use MSIE as a normal browser on your desktop for non-critical browsing and Email, should you wish.

(D) Use ACDSee as your viewer. If you use the cache facility, make certain that you set it up within your encrypted drive. This allows easy previewing of thumbprints and click and zoom to examine image quality. I prefer the earlier version 2.4. Less bloat.

ACDSee is here:

Two alternatives are:

Thumbs Plus, at and VuePro, at:

Each of these 3 programs has some advantage over the others. Choose whichever best suits your needs.

(E) Many files are compressed. The most popular is Zip. I recommend obtaining a copy of WinZip from here: Or, do a search for PKzip, which is freeware I believe.

(F) Any person who browses the Net should ensure they have a good virus detector. There are many to choose from, some are freeware, others are shareware or commercial ware. I use Norton’s only because it allows me to update the virus list online. Useful and so easy.

(G) Get a firewall. I recommend ZoneAlarm.

Get it here:

20. How can I ensure my temporary files do not give away info?

My earnest advice is to invest in more RAM memory and turn off the swapfile. Alternatively, choose BestCrypt version 7 and ensure the option to encrypt the swapfile is enabled.

21. Is there really much difference security-wise between using RAM memory instead of a permanent swapfile?

Definitely. No matter how many times you wipe the swapfile, it is still possible to recover the over-written data, if enough effort is put into it. Whereas, using the RAM memory ensures that nothing is written to disk at all. This totally circumvents this problem because once the computer is switched off all data in RAM memory is lost forever.

It also has the merit of safe crash close if you are raided.

Of course, these advantages apply to encrypting the swapfile with BestCrypt.

22. How secure is this swapfile encryption process with BestCrypt?

Jetico (the authors of BestCrypt), claim BestCrypt generates a random key seeded from various timing info noted on boot that is held in RAM memory only. This key is therefore for all practical purposes very secure and is lost on shut down. Which must mean it is impossible for anybody to recover the swapfile on a subsequent boot. The encryption algorithm recommended is Rijndael (pronounced Rinedull). This is the algorithm chosen for the new Advanced Encryption Standard and is considered very secure. It is also very fast. If this is indeed how it works, then you can be assured your swapfile data is secure.

All of the above is sufficient for a level 1 security.

Level 2. This is for those who not only wish to hide their private data, but wish to hide the fact that they have such data.

23. What more must I do to achieve level 2 Security?

For level 2, it is essential that you can show plausible deniability for all files that might contain encrypted data. The purpose is to be able to justify every file on your system. This section will help you to achieve this higher level of security.

24. Which encryption program do you recommend and why?

BestCrypt version 7. Regrettably the needs of a commercial enterprise appear to take precedence over transparency because Jetico have chosen not to publish the full source code for their excellent program. But if your needs are such that you must have level 2 security, I would nevertheless commend BestCrypt version 7 as the best choice in the circumstances.

The latest version 7 allows a hidden (or secret) encrypted container to be created within the existing one. More importantly the presence of this hidden container is impossible to prove without guessing the passphrase for this hidden container. There is no obvious or outward manifestation to suggest that such a container exists.

First, a normal encrypted container (call it a file if you wish) is created with BestCrypt in the usual way. Some private but legal data is put into the container to justify its existence. Thenceforth it is never again opened except to prove its contents are legal. In fact, no further data should ever be written to the container or the second hidden container will be destroyed.

25. How is this hidden container created?

First create a normal container. Then right mouse click on it and choose Properties. Choose the option to create a hidden part.

The hidden container is impossible to prove because the keyfile hash of the passphrase is not marked out. It appears as just more random hash filling empty space within the container. Remember the whole container is always filled with apparently random hash, whether data is written to the container or not. This also applies to the normal container, making it impossible to guess just how much (if any) data is within the encrypted file.

The only possible way for anyone to prove that a hidden container exists is by guessing the correct passphrase. There is absolutely no other way to prove its existence. Neat.

Everything is identical to normal usage. You can enter either passphrase. The normal one will mount the BestCrypt container, but not show any of the data within the hidden container. The hidden passphrase will only mount the hidden container and again will not show the normal data. Under duress, it is therefore easy to show the ostensible contents of your BestCrypt file.

The more data you load into the normal container, then obviously the smaller will be the available space left for the hidden container. But with ever-larger hard drives becoming available, size only becomes an issue for backup purposes.

A message appears after inputting the hidden container passphrase that you have mounted the hidden container. It is imperative to check this. If you absentmindedly mount the normal container and write data to it, you will probably never again be able to mount your hidden container and you will lose all of its data! Of course this is an easy way to destroy the hidden container with all its contents if the need ever arises.

Important! For reliable operation on Windows 2000, you must format both the original and the hidden part of the container with FAT (if under 2047 Mbytes) or FAT32 if larger than 2047 Mbytes. The drive on which the BestCrypt container is created can be FAT32 or NTFS. It is only the BestCrypt container itself that needs this. I had all sorts of problems until I twigged the problem. Of course, this might just be another artefact of my system.

26. Can I create a hidden encrypted container on a floppy?

Yes, and on a Jaz or a CD-RW disk. The procedure is identical.

27. This all sounds too good to be true, are there any snags?

None so far as I can tell, apart from the FAT32 restriction mentioned above. Obviously, it assumes that the use of encryption is legal in your country.

28. What if encryption is illegal in my country?

In that case, I suggest using the steganographic feature of Scramdisk. But ensure you create your own WAV file, by making your own recording. Once the steganographically encrypted file is created within the WAV file, make sure to wipe the original recording to prevent forensic analysis showing their low level data are not identical. Of course, you will need to install Scramdisk in traveller mode. This means running it off a floppy. But you will still need to hide the floppy effectively in the case of a search. I am sorry I cannot help you here. It must be down to your own initiative.

29. Are there any other precautions I should take?

Make copies of all your PGP keys, a text file of all your passwords and program registration codes, copies of INI files for critical programs, secret Bank Account numbers and anything else that is so critical your life would be inconvenienced if it were lost. These individual files should all be stored in a folder called “Safe” on your encrypted drive.

Create a hidden container on a your hard drive. Now copy “Safe” into the hidden container. Dismount the container and burn it onto your CD-R.

I used to say give this disk to a trusted friend. But now with BestCrypt 7 this is unnecessary.

The above is sufficient for Level 2 security.

30. I need Level 3 Security, how do I achieve this?

This is for those who wish to protect themselves from hackers whilst online and snoopers who may try and compromise either their software or add substitute software that could reveal their secret passphrases.

31. What are these threats?

They are known as Tempest and Trojan attacks.

32. What is a Tempest attack?

Tempest is an acronym for Transient Electro-Magnetic Pulse Emanation Surveillance. This is the science of monitoring at a distance electronic signals carried on wires or displayed on a monitor. Although of only slight significance to the average user, it is of enormous importance to serious cryptography snoopers. To minimise a tempest attack you should screen all the cables between your computer and your accessories, particularly your monitor. A non-CRT monitor screen such as those used by laptops offers a considerable reduction in radiated emissions and is recommended.

I have heard that in the United Kingdom where people have to pay a licence to watch TV, the powers that be cannot detect the radiation from the new gas plasma TVs when they do their street by street patrols. This suggests that they might be excellent from a privacy point of view.

33. What can Scramdisk offer to help minimise a Tempest attack?

Use its Red Screen mode. Also, once a container is mounted, click on the middle icon to clear all cached passphrases. This is my only serious criticism of Scramdisk – it does not by default immediately clear the cache.

34. What about BestCrypt??

It does not offer the same facility, but it does offer some protection. On the Menu bar, click on Key Generators -> SHA-1.. and ensure “Use Keyboard Filter” is checked.

Then again, Options -> Swap File Encryption Utility -> Ensure “Enable Encryption of Swapfile” is checked. Choose an encryption Algorithm; Rijndael is the default (and the fastest).

35. What is a Trojan?

A trojan (from the Greek Trojan Horse), is a hidden program that monitors your key-strokes and then either copies them to a secret folder for later recovery or ftp them to a server when you next go online. This may be done without your knowledge. Such a trojan may be secretly placed on your computer or picked up on your travels on the Net. It might be sent by someone hacking into your computer whilst you are online.

The United States Government has openly admitted it will be employing such techniques. They call it Magic Lantern. It was originally promulgated as a counter-terrorism weapon. But who knows how it will be used in practice.

To be political for a moment; the problem we all have to suffer is that as Governments gain ever more power, the ordinary John Doe has less and less control over his life.

36. How do I protect myself from a Trojan?

You must have a truly effective firewall. It is not sufficient for a firewall to simply monitor downloaded data, but to also monitor all attempts by programs within your computer that may try and send data out. The only firewall that I know of that ensures total protection against such attacks is ZoneAlarm. This firewall very cleverly makes an encrypted hash of each program to ensure that a re-named or modified version of a previously acceptable program cannot squeeze through and “phone home”.

ZoneAlarm is here:

To understand how important this firewall is, visit Steve Gibson’s site.

Steve’s site:

Go to the “Test my Shields” and “Probe my Ports” pages.

You can test ZoneAlarm for yourself. I strongly urge all users concerned with their privacy to run this test.

One option worth implementing if others can access your computer is to disable your floppy drive through the Bios. This simple action may be enough to prevent someone adding a trojan via your floppy drive.

37. How will I know when a trojan has modified an acceptable program?

ZoneAlarm will pop up a screen asking if this program is allowed to access the Net. If it is one of your regular programs, be very wary and always initially say NO until you can check why this program is not now acceptable to ZoneAlarm. If it is a strange program, then obviously say, NO and investigate.

38. How important is the passphrase?

Critically important. It is almost certainly the weakest link in the encryption chain with most home/amateur users. I provide links at the end of the FAQ, some of these should either help directly or give further links about how to create an effective passphrase.

For the newbies: never choose a single word, no matter how unusual you think it is. A passphrase must be that, a phrase, a series of words, characters and punctuation intermixed. One method that I believe would help is to deliberately mis-spell common words in a phrase. Scruggle in place of struggle, matrificent in place of magnificent. These could be the start of a longer phrase. Taking this a step further, invent words that are pronounceable but totally meaningless.

Note it is important to include some figures and keyboard characters such as punctuation. The use of these will ensure that a simple search using just lower case letters will fail.

39. How can I prevent someone using my computer when I am away?

Unless you have a removable C: drive which you can lock away in a secure place, a wall safe or whatever, your only hope is by securely locking up your computer so that access is extremely difficult. This may involve some sort of strap and lock. There is no simple and easy answer. But one way that can help thwart someone actually depositing a trojan on your machine is by PGP signing ZoneAlarm.

40. How do I do this?

The easiest way is by using the Windows version of PGP to check the validity of Zonealarm.exe and Zoneband.dll and if you have ZoneAlarm Pro, Zapro.exe.

You do this by digitally signing each of these files.

PGP offers you by default the option of a detached signature, use that option. It surely goes without saying that you do not use any of your secret Nym keys for signing these files. You should have generated a key pair for general use, which is for just this sort of purpose. This key is to level 1 security only, so use a different passphrase to the one you use for your secret BestCrypt container. It could be the same as your open BestCrypt container, of course. There is no reason to choose a simple one, the more complex it is, the more plausible and value you appear to place in the security of your open BestCrypt container. Anyway, it must be complex if it is to protect your sig files.

After signing these files, you will see a new file appear with the identical file name but with the tag “sig” attached. If you click on this new file, it will display the signature validity of the file it is checking. If the signed file has been tampered with in any way, it will display “bad signature”.

Copy all the above files, including their detached digital sigs into your secret container. These are your backups for possible future use. Next, make shortcuts of both detached sigs that applies to the original files (not the backup copies) and place these shortcuts in the WindowsStart MenuProgramsStart Up folder.

When you next start Windows it will then automatically display boxes showing the result of testing these sigs against the original files. You now have a reasonable chance of catching out any snooper who has actually physically tampered with your machine in your absence.

For this system to be truly effective, you must trust PGP and investigate any warning of a bad signature.

I am aware that this might be totally over-the-top paranoia for the average user. Each must decide for himself what level to adopt.

41. Anything else?

Use a Bios password. Although it can be bypassed by resetting the Bios, the fact it has been reset should be obvious by either there not being a call for the Bios password on boot or it is different and you cannot then start-up. Also, ensure you have set a Windows start-up password and a screen-saver password.

42. Can you suggest any other precautions I should take to preserve my privacy?

Always proceed on the assumption that you are about to be raided!

Always bother to check the firewall signatures on boot. If any are bad, check your backups and immediately copy across. Then close down and re-boot.

In some countries this may literally be a life or death situation.

Part 2 of 2.

This second part concentrates on security whilst online.

There are countless reasons why someone may need the reassurance of anonymity. The most obvious is as a protection against an over-bearing Government. Many people reside in countries where human rights are dubious and they need anonymity to raise public awareness and publish these abuses to the world at large. This part 2 is for those people and for the many others who can help by creating smoke.

43. I subscribe to various news groups and receive Email that I want to keep private, am I safe?

Whilst you are online anyone could be monitoring your account. If you live in the British Isles be aware that all ISP’s are required to keep logs of your online activities, including which Web sites you visit. Shortly this will be reinforced by MI5 who will be monitoring all Net activity 24 hours per day! The information will be archived eventually for up to seven years!

The British Labour Government claim this Act is misunderstood and that it will only be used against serious criminals.

Do you trust them? You do? Then perhaps you believe in fairies too.

44. Can anything be done to prevent my ISP (or the authorities) doing this?

There are several things you can do. First of all subscribe anonymously to an independent News Provider. Avoid using the default news provided by your ISP. Apart from usually only containing a small fraction of all the newsgroups and articles that are posted daily, your ISP is probably logging all the groups you subscribe to. You also need to protect yourself from snoopers whilst online. Both of these aims can be realised by encrypting the data-stream between your desktop and a remote host server.

This host should preferably be sited in a different State or country to your own.

45. I live in the United States why do I need to bother?

You don’t need to. But your privacy and security are enhanced if you do, particularly if you wish to ensure best possible privacy of posting to Usenet. Also, it is quite likely that many routes around the globe, even across the States may be routed through London. The Web is literally just that, a web. Thus American Email, news postings, etc are just as liable to be read by MI5 and who knows what they will do with this information. As many businesses exchange Email with total ignorance about security, these important messages are going to be read by various snoops. With critical business decisions relying on secrecy, who knows what use will be made of this information.

Perhaps that is part of the hidden agenda for all this effort.

46. Ok, you’ve convinced me, how do I go about this?

You must use the SSH encryption protocol. SSH is a form of encryption that ensures that everything that leaves your desktop is encrypted. To do this you will need to subscribe to at least one, but preferably 2 remote servers.

One of these services is run by Their site will explain how to download and use their recommended program F-Secure version 5. There are several other commercial versions of SSH, including a freebie version, but I prefer the Anonymizer recommended commercial version for its ease of use. It can be downloaded already pre-configured and ready for use.

There are many other sites that allow SSH encryption so I understand, but I have had to register a domain name to get access to the other that I use. By doing this I use them sequentially, (See later in FAQ) thus hiding my home ISP from the distant host. By subscribing anonymously to the second host, I am effectively screening myself totally.

I believe there is little or no logging of these connections, unlike other services, such as Usenet postings. Hence the need for this extra level of security.

47. How do these programs function?

SSH uses a protocol called port forwarding. This means that it tunnels the necessary ports for Web browsing (port 80), Email send and receive (ports 25 and 110), Usenet (port 119) through an encrypted tunnel (port 22). Any adversary attempting to read your data passing in either direction can only know that a, it is encrypted and b, it is passing through port 22 on your computer. They cannot even determine whether your Web browsing or sending Email.

Note: This is not strictly true. I have heard a spokesman for the British Government claim that even encrypted traffic can give information of the type of traffic being passed.

The method is simple but very secure. Your desktop SSH program (called the client) asks for a connection to the remote host server. The host replies with its DSA public key. Your desktop checks this key against previous connections and alerts you if it is different, which might suggest someone was intercepting your traffic. Your desktop has meanwhile generated a random session key which is never shown to you. The server public key is used to encrypt this session key. The host is able to decrypt it using its secret key and then using this session key it asks your desktop SSH program to send your user id and password.

Provided these are acceptable, the channel is opened.

48. Where does the data go after passing through the remote host?

It then goes out onto the Web or to the News Provider totally anonymously. All your postings and downloads will always be totally private.

49. Is the data encrypted after it leaves the remote server?

Not unless you are using an additional remote host. If you are careful and limit your time online to say a 1 hour limit, breaking off and re-connecting you will always generate a new session key. This will make hacking attempts far more difficult.

50. How do I get onto Usenet?

As already stated, do not use your own freebie news service offered by your ISP. You must subscribe anonymously to a dedicated and independent News provider such as Newscene or Newsfeeds. Regrettably, the best news provider I have found, Altopia, does not support anonymous sign ups. You will need to modify Agent to ensure it routes data through the encrypted connection.

51. How do I do this?

Go to Options -> User and System Profile -> System and put “localhost” in the line for News Server and again for Email Server. Click OK.

Go to Options -> User and System Profile -> User and under News Server Login, put your given username and your password. Check “Login with a Username and Password” and “Remember Password between sessions”. Click OK.

52. How do I connect sequentially to a second remote host and why should I bother?

After connecting to the first, open a new terminal in F-Secure by clicking on “New Terminal Window” on the tool bar. Wait for the screen to come alive and show that you are connected then type:

ssh remote_server_b (if you have the same user id for both).

If you have a different user id, then use this form:

ssh user_id@remote_server_b (ensuring you enter the appropriate user id for the second host).

Substituting the correct server name for remote_server_b. You will be asked for your second remote host password to login.

Use lower case for the letters “ssh”.

Note: (the name of the server for SSH connections) regrettably does not appear to support this service as the initiating server, but is perfectly happy accepting requests from a prior remote host server. I have had to find a Web hosting service and register my own Web site on such a server to get exclusive usage. There are any number of businesses offering Web hosting services, just ensure the one you choose to use supports SSH2 (some still only support the earlier and less secure SSH1 protocol). An Email to the Webmaster should clarify this. Cyberpass now supports SSH2. You can configure F-Secure to give you a warning if the server responds with SSH1 in place of SSH2.

The reason for this extra bother is to give an extra layer of encryption and anonymity to your data stream.

53. Couldn’t I use the first remote host as my local ISP?

Not recommended.

54. Why not?

Because otherwise you can be traced instantly by the phone company.

55. What is the difference between a dialup and a shell account?

The dialup is what it says. It is your normal account with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). With a shell account you connect to your ISP then use the Net to make an SSH connection to a remote server. All your Net activities, Email, Usenet, Web browsing are then done through this remote host, or better still hosts.

56. How strong (safe) is this SSH encryption?

Very strong and safe. You may have a choice of algorithms, or You will have to use whatever algorithms are supported by the host server. 3DES is a popular choice.

57. Should I run these encrypted programs from within my encrypted drive?

For level 1 security you could run it from your C: drive. But for better security you will need to run it from your encrypted container. This means SSH should be installed on and run from your encrypted drive. This is essential for level 3 security because it insures against anyone accessing your computer in your absence and substituting a cracked version of your programs or keys. If hacked, anybody could be monitoring your traffic.

58. Are there any problems using what is in effect triple encryption (SSH X 2, plus Scramdisk/BestCrypt) together?

On a modern fast computer, these multiple layers of encryption are totally innocuous. If you have added copious extra RAM as recommended to obviate using the Swapfile, you will find your computer runs much faster that will most likely compensate for the encryption overhead. However, the data transit speed is slowed up due to the extra nodes in transit.

Experience suggests that using sequential remote hosts into a news provider is considerably faster than the previous method using Freedom and one remote host.

59. Can I post graphics anonymously to Usenet with this system?

Absolutely. If you choose to use Agent, it will always use your News Provider as the posting host. This is why I recommended you subscribe anonymously to this news provider. Nothing can then be traced back.

Perhaps that is an exaggeration. But it would be very time consuming and expensive and problematic. I believe that no logs are kept by the host servers of these connections, suggesting a major problem for anybody trying to do a trace. It could be that unless you are a suspected henchman of Osama Bin Laden, you would not be worth the bother.

Quicksilver will always use one of the mail2news gateways. These are intended to be hard anonymous, but it does not yet support the SSH option. Attempts to put “localhost” into the proxy settings causes an error on my system. Despite this, Quicksilver is the more secure method of sending and receiving Email and for posting to Usenet, provided several chains of remailers are chosen. But the remailer network does not readily accept large files, such as graphics. This need not be a significant problem as you can use Agent, provided all the other measures have been strictly adhered to.

60. Why Quicksilver, what about Private Idaho or Jack B. Nymble?

I found Private Idaho far too buggy and not as intuitive as Quicksilver. I have also used Jack B. Nymble. It is very sophisticated, but I prefer the elegant simplicity of Quicksilver. This is my choice, others are free to assess the alternatives and choose accordingly.

61. Is there another, simpler way?

Email can be sent (and received) by Yahoo or Hotmail. But I treat these as soft anonymous. Don’t use them for anything critical.

There are also several freebie remote hosts. My experiences suggest they are less reliable and frequently down. By all means experiment and use whatever suits you best.

There is a culture of expecting everything to be free on the Net. Fine. Just remember in this world you get what you pay for. If your freedom (literally) depends on your choices, I suggest you think long and hard before proceeding.

62. Are there any other suggestions?

Immediately you finish a posting session, break the connection. Close F-Secure. This ensures new session keys are generated when you log in again over the new link. Never stay online whilst posting for longer than 1 hour maximum.

Always post at different times, do not create a regular pattern of postings at specific times and days of the week. If possible, use different ISP’s to log onto the Net. By all memans use a freebie ISP if available in your area. Be aware that these freebies invariably log your telephone number and connection times. But then so do the others to a varying extent.

63. Surely all this is totally over the top for the majority of users?

It is certainly over the top for 99 per cent of users for 99 per cent of the time. If, however, you are the one in a hundredth and you do not much like the idea of being at risk for 1 per cent of the time, then no, it is not over the top at all.

In any case, using these tactics helps create smoke which in turn helps protect those who really do need all the protection and security they can get. Remember this FAQ is intended to help many different people. Some may be living in deprived conditions, in countries where human rights abuses are a daily fact of life.

64. Can I use IRC/ICQ/Yahoo/MSM in this way?

No. But you can use a program called Trillian to encrypt text messaging only at present. It is beta software and does not yet support voice or file transfer. It is free for personal use. I have used it and it appears to do all they claim for it. Both parties need to be using Trillian for the encryption to be effective. You can use it as a stand alone, but it will not then support encryption.

Trillian is here:

65. Can I be anonymous as far as other Web sites are concerned?

Yes, just set up Netscape to use your remote host as a proxy. If you want the highest standards of security with Netscape, remember to methodically go through the various cache options, etc and ensure these are all set to write to your encrypted disk. I suggest you keep the letter “X” as the letter for your encrypted drive. Consistency is very important here. By default Netscape will write to temp folders on your C drive. Bad.

66. Lastly, what do you say to the charge that this FAQ may be useful to criminals?

I did take time to have a re-think after the events of 9/11. However, on balance I believe it is still the right thing to do. Like gun control, if we ban weapons only the police and criminals will have them. Banning encryption or anonymity is not going to make criminals stop using encryption and attempting to be anonymous. It is almost laughable for anyone to be so naive as to believe that passing any law would make the least difference to a terrorist.

I still believe that the individual should be allowed to choose, not the Government on his behalf.

Who benefits the most if Governments are allowed to reduce our freedom of choice? The Government or us?

Those that give up a little freedom to gain a little security will lose both.


1. Always use encryption, whatever else you do.

2. Always post via your encrypted and anonymous remote host to your anonymously subscribed News Provider.

3. Never ask of anyone nor give anyone online, your true Email address.

4. Never DL any file with .exe, .com or .bat extension from a dubious source. If you do, don’t run it.

5. For your own protection, never offer to trade any illegal material, nor ever respond to those seeking it, even anonymously.

If you believe any part of this FAQ is wrong, misleading or could be improved, please Email your comments and I will take them onboard.

To respond to me personally, email me at and include your PGP key with your message if you expect an encrypted answer.

Please use my key, below, to encrypt your message to me.

My key fingerprint: F463 7DCB C8BD 1924 F34B 8171 C958 C5BB

My user id: 0x14A606A7

– – – – – – – – —–BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK—– Version: 6.0.2ckt

mQENAza3VwsAAAEIAJoghtgM5IW0CmQOocBDJPUSDAlkaPkP4LVN/6I6U1qYXYSX slRiXL6R8/L5LiYGjc8+jkK0MbpTh7W4WiT35L31kX2EU/MSNlpawvpwTvaye8cz Kbwupsi7qtxVEETM11ucSuxtG8ShOwiYrMUqOmP93hf9h78gNzD/qGOYGV994Adt MHRZ4lPlQnknxoDszHxCDcS83jlo4mD1xhuvLQ1thXFkGBl9Bw/lSWDxcu0gssZB necFTSkFtJbnu3gHp6DVE9CO/ZxhXDGHAmC/jLfB5QH59Zbbw4fFgQ7tw2gUAgiS kvv0RS55TB9n7JiDwc+Mk0OlYavdZOh5cRSmBqcABRG0JURvY3RvciBXaG8gPGRv Y3Rvcl93aG9AbnltLmFsaWFzLm5ldD6JARUDBRA2t1cLZOh5cRSmBqcBAb87B/46 wEezqswaPz8NIA0/XYULXPKse11aCgRL7MIQPO1CRdqjbFnWi1wU2AnAkCtCLia+ lhulNrLJxMUvHgOQc4oC+nlUntBE9f8hHg0VwvQJ/4kO29UeVf0iwr+drZjRJooR oR1C1UDDr199eeKJ3+m2pO7j1DBxv4tWQAYsJmZQQqlNRLzsmHJyTI/ZN03UREAZ Qr4k6EjD1lScWg9MfueITgiMdbeV3MmCpf7mnlahvlN/S31CeEfoY2OpcRYVXNQb it9N8cPM+2KZEdl/FW7yVPgd6BCGFFgPcRiqLC7c1F6qBPUpbdYf/pvd3/lhRJR9 IY35xfmdHWM8Rk+ivIPD


– – – – – – – – —–END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK—–

This ends the FAQ.

The following are links that might prove helpful:

Items specifically mentioned or recommended in the FAQ:





PGP: or here:

Evidence Eliminator:




Scorch and Scour:


Quicksilver, available here:

Jack B. Nymble:

Also here:



Thumbs Plus:


Mixmaster (required by Quicksilver and Jack B. Nymble): Download site:

Test your shields:

Nym remailers:, home page:, home page:, home page:

In case you need convincing:

A directory of Stateside free servers:

Useful programs:

Partition Magic:

Some anonymity sites:

Other additional useful sites:

Beginner’s Guide to PGP:

PGP for beginners:


Also worth a visit:

FAQ for PGP Dummies:


With links to free download sites

The SSH home page:

Web based Anon E-mail

More about remailers:

Simple Anonymity:

Reference Guide:

Remailer Link:

Privacy Links:


Anonymous Posting:

Anonymity Info:

Nym Instructions:

Nym Creation:

General info: (Good for links)

General help:

Version 16.1

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