The fate of TrueCrypt hangs in the balance, now that the main site has been shut down and redirects to its SourceForge page, which displays the following ominous notice.

WARNING: Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues

Many conspiracy theories abound for the reasons behind the abrupt ending of the popular project. Among them:

  • the site has been hacked, and the signing key stolen
  • the secret authors are under duress, and this is a warrant canary
  • it’s a form of Dead-man’s-switch
  • the authors are plain tired of the project after 10 years and want out
  • the authors are disheartened about the crowdfunded effort to pick apart their work

TrueCrypt was started in 2004 to fulfill a basic but critical need for secure storage of on-disk files. Why use encrypted containers when you could have used encrypted zip files? Well, for one, you will have to remember to keep unzipping and zipping up files whereas TrueCrypt was designed to make all that transparent by mounting the encrypted contents as another drive. That makes it easy to work with and inter-operate with practically any application.

TrueCrypt is certainly not the only encryption solution, though many of them are platform-specific, do not integrate as nicely into the OS, isn’t as feature-rich, or are just plain proprietary. The problem with proprietary solutions is that you never know just what went into the encryption, whether there are deliberate or undiscovered vulnerabilities or weaknesses in the algorithm used for encryption etc. This is especially important with the recent disclosure on NSA’s effort to weaken encryption.

There has been competing open-source solutions such as PGPDisk, FreeOFTE, and so on, but none of them are as polished and feature complete as TrueCrypt. For many users who require an easy to use encryption solution, TrueCrypt is a no-brainer over other existing non-paid choices.

Another plus point of TrueCrypt is that it works on multiple platforms. That makes it convenient as you could store an encrypted volume in say Dropbox, and be able to work on the files on your Mac OS, Windows or Linux.

Although TrueCrypt is open-source, there are worries that its binaries may be tampered with – that is, it is not compiled result of its published source. The secret identity of its creators does nothing to relieve this concern. Some even speculate that it may be a FBI honeypot. This point has always been a pain point of its users and especially critics. One particularly staunch critic even started a crowd-funding effort to audit the source code to discover if there are unintended or deliberate security loopholes. A recent effort to match the source against its binaries helped to alleviate some fears, though it will still require a full audit to know if there are loopholes in the software.

For now, before the dust settles, existing users of TrueCrypt might want to start looking at alternative solutions for their encryption needs.