Introduction to LUKS

The simplest way to carry around the documents that you want to use with Tails encrypted is to use the encrypted persistent storage.

You can create other encrypted volumes using LUKS to encrypt, for example, another USB stick or an external hard disk. LUKS is the standard for disk encryption in Linux.

  • GNOME Disks allows you to create encrypted volumes.
  • The GNOME desktop allows you to open encrypted volumes.

Comparison between LUKS and VeraCrypt

You can also open VeraCrypt encrypted volumes in Tails. VeraCrypt is a disk encryption tool for Windows, macOS, and Linux. See our documentation about VeraCrypt.

We recommend you use:

  • VeraCrypt to share encrypted files across different operating systems.
  • LUKS to encrypt files for Tails and Linux.
LUKSVeraCrypt
CompatibilityLinuxWindows + macOS + Linux
Create new volumesYesOutside of Tails
Open and modify existing volumesYesYes
Encrypted partitions (or entire disks) ¹YesYes
Encrypted file containers ¹Complicated ²Easy
Plausible deniability ³NoYes
Ease of useEasierMore complicated
SpeedFasterSlower
  1. See the difference between file containers and partitions.

  2. See Tyler Burton: How to migrate from TrueCrypt to LUKS file containers.

  3. Plausible deniability: in some cases (for example, with VeraCrypt hidden volumes), it is impossible for an adversary to technically prove the existence of an encrypted volume.

    Still, deniable encryption might not protect you if you are forced to reveal the existence of the encrypted volume. See:

Create an encrypted partition

To open GNOME Disks choose Applications ▸ Utilities ▸ Disks.

Identify your external storage device

Disks lists all the current storage devices on the left side of the screen.

  1. Plug in the external storage device that you want to use.

  2. A new device appears in the list of storage devices. Click on it:

  3. Check that the description of the device on the right side of the screen corresponds to your device: its brand, its size, etc.

Format the device

  1. Click on the Menu button in the titlebar and choose Format Disk… to erase all the existing partitions on the device.

  2. In the Format Disk dialog:

    • If you want to erase all data securely, choose to Overwrite existing data with zeroes in the Erase drop-down list.

    • Choose Compatible with all systems and devices (MBR/DOS) in the Partitioning drop-down list.

    Then click Format….

  3. In the confirmation dialog, make sure that the device is correct. Click Format to confirm.

Create a new encrypted partition

Now the schema of the partitions in the middle of the screen shows an empty device:

Free Space 8.1 GB

  1. Click on the Create partition button to create a new partition on the device.

  2. In the Create Partition dialog:

    • Partition Size: you can create a partition on the whole device or only on part of it. In this example we are creating a partition of 4.0 GB on a device of 8.1 GB.

    • Type: choose Encrypted, compatible with Linux systems (LUKS + Ext4) from the drop-down list.

    • Name: you can set a name for the partition. This name remains invisible until the partition is open but can help you to identify it during use.

    • Passphrase: type a passphrase for the encrypted partition and repeat it to confirm.

    Then click Create.

    If an error occurs while creating the new partition, try to unplug the device, restart GNOME Disks, and follow all steps again from the beginning.

  3. Creating the partition takes from a few seconds to a few minutes. After that, the new encrypted partition appears in the volumes on the device:

    Partition 1 4.0 GB LUKS / secret 4.0 GB Ext4

  4. If you want to create another partition in the free space on the device, click on the free space and then click on the Create partition button again.

Use the new partition

You can open this new partition from the sidebar of the file browser with the name you gave it.

After opening the partition with the file browser, you can also access it from the Places menu.

Open an existing encrypted partition

When plugging in a device containing an encrypted partition, Tails does not open the partition automatically but you can do so from the file browser.

  1. Choose Places ▸ Computer to open the file browser.

  2. Click on the encrypted partition that you want to open in the sidebar.

    File browser with '4.0 GB Encrypted' entry in the sidebar

  3. Enter the passphrase of the partition in the password prompt and click Unlock.

  4. After opening the partition with the file browser, you can also access it from the Places menu.

  5. To close the partition after you finished using it, click on the Eject button next to the partition in the sidebar of the file browser.

Storing sensitive documents

Such encrypted volumes are not hidden. An attacker in possession of the device can know that there is an encrypted volume on it. Take into consideration that you can be forced or tricked to give out its passphrase.

Opening encrypted volumes from other operating systems

It is possible to open such encrypted volumes from other operating systems. But, doing so might compromise the security provided by Tails.

For example, image thumbnails might be created and saved by the other operating system. Or, the contents of files might be indexed by the other operating system.

Change the passphrase of an existing encrypted partition

To open GNOME Disks choose Applications ▸ Utilities ▸ Disks.

  1. Plug in the external storage device containing the encrypted partition that you want to change the passphrase for.

  2. The device appears in the list of storage devices. Click on it:

  3. Check that the description of the device on the right side of the screen corresponds to your device: its brand, its size, etc.

  4. Click on the partition displaying a padlock at the bottom-right corner.

  5. Click on the Additional partition options button and choose Change Passphrase…