mcrypt: encrypt your files

emailIn an earlier article we explored how to encypt text files with vim. There are several ways to encrypt binaries on Linux too; using GnuPG, external tools like VeraCrypt etc. mcrypt is a similar utility that works as a frontend to libemcrypt.


To install mcrypt on Ubuntu, run:

$ sudo apt-get install mcrypt


  • List the algorithms supported
    $ mcrypt --list

    We will use arcfour for our example.

  • List hashing algorithms supported
    $ mcrypt --list-hash

    The hash is a digest added to an encrypted file, in order to detect corruption. We will use sha384.

  • Compression options
    -z : gzip
    -p : bzip2
  • Compress a file
    $ mcrypt -a arcfour -h sha384 -p webcheck.dat

    -a : algorithm to use [optional]
    -h : hashing algorithm to use [optional]
    -p : use bzip2 compression [optional]
    mcrypt will prompt you for the key (or password).
    The file is saved as

  • Decrypt the above file
    $ mcrypt -d
    $ mdecrypt

    Extract the bz2 archive to get the original file

    $ bunzip2 webcheck.dat.bz2
  • Encrypt multiple files
    $ mcrypt file1 file2
  • mcrypt can handle files only. To encrypt a directory archive and compress it first
    $ tar -jcvf mydir.tar.bz2 mydir/
    $ mcrypt mydir.tar.bz2
  • It is possible to pass a key in the cmdline using the -k parameter or in mcrypt configuration file (~/.mcryptrc) but these are not advisable as the key is exposed.

Webpage: mcrypt

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