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I recently installed 11.10 on a fresh disk using entire disk encryption. Can someone tell me how secure the encryption algorithm is? Has there been any recent breaches with said algorithm? I use a 36 character random passphrase so I know thats not a weak link. What are the chances my client's data could be compromised if the hard drive was stolen?

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You might be better off asking how long it would (on average) take someone to break that passphrase. Also it might help to know if the person stealing it would know it has credit card data for example. I think you can argue that if it isn't credit cards no one is going to brute force it -- no money in it. – jcollum Jan 20 '12 at 20:46
Secure against what ? Cracking the encryption with a super computer - difficult but not impossible. Cracking the code with a $10 wrench - easier – bodhi.zazen Jan 20 '12 at 21:17
Here's how to see which cipher you're using in LUKS: What is used in the 12.10 full disk encryption? – gertvdijk Jan 21 '13 at 10:17

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Yes, it is secure. Ubuntu uses AES-256 to encrypt the disk volume and has a cypher feedback to help protect it from frequency attacks and others attacks that target statically encrypted data.

As an algorithm, AES is secure and this has been proved by crypt-analysis testing. The weakness actually lies within the cypher and the software to pass it the keys. Specifically lies in the keystore (which is stored in the header of the volume), the keystore is secured by a passphrase. Passphrases are of course open to some attacks such as dictionary/brute force (if this was successful, it would decrypt the keystore). Using long "complex" non-word passwords would reduce the chance of this happening.

The only other possibility to decrypt is using recording devices or social engineering to determine your passphrase.

In short, your computer is reasonably safe unless you are subject to serious organised cyber crime or Government investigation!

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You should however note that if your computer is taken whilst running or in suspend mode (hibernation is fine), there are various, fairly easy techniques to extract the password from RAM. I would thusly advice caution on which state you leave your laptop in whilst traveling, but overall you should be safe from most potential scenarios of data loss. – ternaryOperator Jan 21 '12 at 5:39

Here are two resources about attacks on this type of file system that seem to be interesting from a google search.

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Welcome to Ask Ubuntu! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. – guntbert Jun 9 '14 at 10:07

I have created a Windows program that will perform a dictionary attack on Luks volumes.

Its slow by design, trying around 3 keys a second. Other dictionary attacks will be similarly slow, so unless you've chosen an easy passphrase the weakness will not be the algorithm.

Be aware of key stealing from memory, and caching of files, however.

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This does not answer the question how secure it is. This is an answer to a question on how do I perform a dictionary attack on my LUKS device?. – gertvdijk Feb 6 '13 at 15:30
@gertvdijk I think this may answer the question. "unless you've chosen an easy passphrase the weakness will not be the algorithm." The rest could be considered a demonstration of that principle. The last sentence is on-topic too. – Eliah Kagan Feb 6 '13 at 16:17
@EliahKagan I disagree. The question is explicitly about the algorithm itself. Just stating "the weakness will not be the algorithm" is not an answer to that, in my believe. Don't get me wrong - it still has valid and valuable points, but not for this question. – gertvdijk Feb 6 '13 at 16:28
@gertvdijk This answer also gauges how long it takes to crack the algorithm, with a link to a demonstration. I'm not saying this is the best answer, but I think it falls on the side of being an answer (to this question). Furthermore, how secure the algorithm is, is actually just one of several parts of the question. – Eliah Kagan Feb 6 '13 at 16:42
I do think this goes some way to demonstrate the level of possible attack against LUKS. 3 attempts a second from a dictionary is never going to crack a semi-decent passphrase. – Oli Jan 3 '14 at 16:56

LUKS encryption method is potentially unsafe, at least in the way it handles the encryption process. Lets give it the benefit of the doubt the algorithms are safe and we can compare them to algorithm code that has been audited. Putting that aside, as a user, you aren't allowed to create a key that encrypts your data. That's like telling someone, hey, I'll make up a password that encrypts your bank account, not you. But, I'll be so nice to let you make up a password that encrypts my password. There is the security weakness with LUKS as I see it.

LUKS uses a Master Key or what they call a Unified Key. This key is generated using the 'random' and 'urandom' programs installed on the Linux system. If these programs are compromised in some way, your Master Key becomes weak. No matter how strong your password is, the Master Key creation method creates a vulnerability.

Compare this to TrueCrypt who mysteriously shutdown during the biggest leaks against US spying. TrueCrypt volumes that have been properly encrypted according to TrueCrypts documentation, have not been broken into. The government threw all the tax payers money at TrueCrypt volumes and could not break them. This is legal record. (TrueCrypt is 4th Amendment Approved)

TrueCrypt allows the user to create the Master Key. During volume creation TrueCrypt allows the user to move the mouse around in the TrueCrypt interface for as long as they like which randomly manipulates the value of the Master Key being created. That puts the power of chaos in the users hand where it belongs. LUKS does not allow this easy programmatic feature.

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