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Archive for the ‘Technical’ Category

Using U3-Enabled Drives as the Ultimate TrueCrypt Solution

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

TrueCrypt is an open-source solution to encrypting data. It allows the user to create an encrypted container file or to encrypt an entire drive. Full drive encryption is the best solution as it allows the full space of the drive to be used. On USB flash drives it also enables the wear-leveling system built into flash drives to extend the life of the drive as much as possible.

TrueCrypt-encrypted drives require the TrueCrypt software to be accessible to access the encrypted data. This makes sense. But if an entire drive is encrypted, how can the software be stored where it is accessible. I have gotten around this by carrying a second smaller drive with the TrueCrypt software loaded. This enabled me to load the software then decrypt the larger drive. Not the optimal solution but it worked.

A U3 Drive connected to a PC. A CD drive and removable disk in one!

A U3 Drive connected to a PC. A CD drive and removable disk in one!

There is a way around it. U3 is a technology built by SanDisk on some of their flash drives. A computer sees a U3 enabled drive as a flash drive and an 6MB CD drive. The CD image is loaded with the U3 software which is set to autorun on Windows PCs. There is a TrueCrypt package for U3 but the software is stored on the flash space of the drive, making drive encryption still useless.

As expected, the U3 portion of the drive can be re-flashed with the latest version of U3. The updater (LPInstaller.exe) retrieves the latest ISO image from the U3 web site (http://u3.sandisk.com). This URL can be intercepted by a simple HOSTS file change and redirected to a local IP where a custom ISO can be served.

An ISO can be created using IMGBurn. The official ISO is exactly 6.66 MB (6,991,872 bytes). Though it is untested, some people have successfully flashed a larger image.

The steps are quite easy to replicate and my method leaves several MB for an additional payload, including a “If found, please return to” message.

1) Download the necessary files:

  • U3 updater and local web server pack (files available at the bottom)
  • The latest edition of TrueCrypt. Installation is not necessary, as the installer offers to just extract the necessary files.

2) Generate your ISO -OR- use mine:

  • Use IMGBurn and create your ISO. Some specific requirements for the ISO image include:
    • ISO9660 +UDF mode
    • No hidden files
    • No subdirectories

Your image should include an “autorun.inf” file to set an icon and start application. It also should include the TrueCrypt files. The easiest way to do this is to run the Traveler wizard inside TrueCrypt.

Place all the files you want inside a folder and create the folder into an ISO image. Be sure that the ISO is created with the contents of the folder and not actually the folder.

Once the ISO has been created, or you decide to use mine, the next step is to update the U3 device with your newly created ISO image.

3) Flash your ISO image to the U3 device:

This part can be a bit confusing, so be sure to follow all the steps!

  1. You will first need to modify your HOSTS file on your computer.hosts-file-cropped
    On Windows Vista, it is located at “C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc”. This file is protected by they system and you will need administrator privileges to update this file. I have provided two hosts files, one modified and one not. Feel free to use it by simply copying it into the directory.
    If you want to use your own, simply add “127.0.0.1 u3.sandisk.com” to the bottom. This redirects the URL u3.scandisk.com to your computer. The next step will handle the reviving end.
  2. In the download I provided you will find HFS, a easy to use local web server. Be sure to select NO to the popup that comes up first.
    Click no!!!

    Click no!!!

    Once you are into the program, all you need to do is to drag-and-drop the “download” folder into the left pane of the program. This folder has the correct folder structure (”download\apps\lpinstaller\isofiles”) that relates to the original site.

    "Download" folder added to HFS

    "Download" folder added to HFS

    Once this is done, this URL ( http://u3.sandisk.com/download/apps/lpinstaller/isofiles/) should look like this:

    Your newly intercepted U3 update site

    Your newly intercepted U3 update site

    This will coerce the U3 updater to download your file “cruzer-autorun.iso” instead of the offical one from the web site.

  3. Removing U3 Launchpad

    Removing U3 Launchpad

    Now, if you already have U3 installed onto the drive, you will need to remove it. This is easily done by running “launchpadremoval.exe”, which is included in the “U3Hacks” file you downloaded.

  4. The final step is upon us! Simply run “LPInstaller.exe”. It will prompt you to proceed. It is not recommended to back the files up as it can really make things much slower.  After it is done, two disks will show up. One will be called “EncryptedDisk” (if you used my ISO). The other will be the eventual encrypted drive.

You have now done the hard part. The final part is to encrypted the drive. The method is exactly the same as usual, except you will be creating a new partiton.

Be sure to select "Non-System Partiton"

Be sure to select "Non-System Partition"

The final dangerous step is to select the correct partition. The easiest way to make sure you are selecting the correct partition is to cross-reference the size of the target. Be careful!

Choose carefully!

Choose carefully!

Once this is done, you can remove your thumb drive and do the final test. It will function fully but there are some extra tips that I will include.
Your drive’s encrypted partition will show up in Windows Explorer as an invalid drive. Clicking on it will generate a window prompting a format. DO NOT DO THIS! The easy way to prevent this is to remove the drive letter from windows explorer. Inside of “Computer Management”, select “Disk Management”. Right-click the volume and select “Change Drive Letter and Paths”. Remove the drive letter by selecting it and clicking remove!

Be sure to not add a new letter!

Be sure to not add a new letter!

Thats it. When you connect the drive, run TrueCrypt from the old U3 Partition. In the mount box, select the proper device and enter your password. Enjoy!

If you have any comments or suggestions, or you see some horrible spelling/grammar error,  please feel free to contact me or leave a comment here!