Create an encrypted LUKS sparse file

For an updated version of this article, check this post!

I’m going to create a 2.7TB of file (sparse file) on my 3TB disk.
This file is a ‘thin provisionig‘ file, which means that it will expand only when/if used. FYI – it won’t shrink after usage. So a 2.7TB sparse file, once created, will be seen as 2.7T but it’s actually using a very little space (almost not noticeable). It will grow using it.
I will also encrypt it using cryptosetup LUKS format, to protect the content.

Why a sparse file?
Well, it’s practical, and it’s very handy if you want to move your files from a disk which is quite full already. In fact, I have my backups on this USB drive, EXT4 formatted. A 3TB drive half full.
A sparse file can be actually bigger than the available space on the disk. Of course, if you fill it up, it will error out. But while you want to move files, it’s… your saviour! šŸ™‚

Using my example, I have 1.2TBĀ used on this 3TB disk. I want to move all this data in an encrypted container that can potentially use the whole disk. So? Sparse file is the solution!
Theoretically I could also have had like… 2.2/2.5TB of data (on a 2.7TB available disk). As long as you free up spaceĀ moving the files, things should work šŸ™‚

First of all… if you haven’t done it yet, just install the package:

# apt-get install cryptsetup

Create the sparsefile

Let’sĀ create a 2.7TB sparse file in /3TB.
[/3TB is the mount point of my /dev/sdb1 USB device]

# dd of=/3TB/file_container.img bs=1 count=0 seek=2700G

Create an encrypted LUKS container

We mount the sparse file just created and set the encrypted password. NOTE: you can change/add/remove this password (key) [later on explained how šŸ˜‰ ]

# losetup /dev/loop0 /3TB/file_container.img 
# cryptsetup -y luksFormat /dev/loop0 
WARNING! ======== This will overwrite data on /dev/loop0 irrevocably. 
Are you sure? (Type uppercase yes): YES 
Enter passphrase: 
Verify passphrase: 

Open the Vault

Now, it’s time to ‘turn on’ this encrypted volume device and check that all went well

# cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/loop0 myarchive
Enter passphrase for /3TB/file_container.img:

# cryptsetup status myarchive
/dev/mapper/myarchive is active.
type: LUKS1
cipher: aes-xts-plain64
keysize: 256 bits
device: /dev/loop0
loop: /file_container.img
offset: 4096 sectors
size: 5662306304 sectors
mode: read/write

And of course, we need to format the device. I’ll use EXT4.

# mkfs.ext4 -L cryptarchive /dev/mapper/myarchive
mke2fs 1.42.12 (29-Aug-2014)
Creating filesystem with 707788288 4k blocks and 176947200 inodes
Allocating group tables: done
Writing inode tables: done
Creating journal (32768 blocks): done
Writing superblocks and filesystem accounting information: done

At this point, you can mount this deviceĀ /dev/mapper/myarchive as usual:

# mkdir /cryptoarchive
# mount -t ext4Ā /dev/mapper/myarchiveĀ /cryptoarchive

You are now able to use your encrypted sparse file! All files can be now copied/moved into/cryptoarchive

Close the Vault

To unmount the vault, you need to follow these steps. This is important when you turn off your server!

# umountĀ /cryptoarchive
#Ā cryptsetup luksCloseĀ /dev/mapper/myarchive
# losetup -d /dev/loop0

Add key to the container

LUKS allows for up to 8 passwords to each partition/vault.
You can add other 7 basically and use all of these 8 passwords to access your vault.

To add keys, vault needs to be ‘open’

# losetup /dev/loop0 /3TB/file_container.img
# cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/loop0 myarchive
# cryptsetup luksAddKey /dev/loop0
< enter any current phrase - and add new phrase >

Change the key of the container

To change the key, the vault/container needs to be ‘close’

# cryptsetup luksCloseĀ /dev/mapper/myarchive
# cryptsetup luksChangeKey /dev/mapper/myarchive 
< verify and change your passphrase here>

Setup auto mount

This will generate a new file as a key, added to the vault and set to be used to auto mount at boot:

# dd if=/dev/urandom of=/root/keyfile bs=1024 count=4
# chmod 0400 /root/keyfile
# cryptsetup luksAddKey /dev/loop0 /root/keyfile
Enter any passphrase:

Than we need to setup /etc/crypttab and /etc/fstab

# cat /etc/crypttab
# <target name>	<source device>		<key file>	<options>
myarchive /dev/loop0 /root/keyfile luks

# tail -n1 /etc/fstab
/dev/mapper/myarchive /cryptoarchive ext4 defaults,noauto 0 2

After that, I have personally created a specific init script. I couldn’t find the right way to run losetup /dev/loop0 /3TB/file_container.img before activating the archive, so…
First of all, I’ve disables cryptdisks via /etc/default/cryptdisks


Than, I’ve created this init script, saved asĀ /etc/init.d/crypt-myvault

#! /bin/sh
# Provides:          crypt-myvault
# Required-Start:    $remote_fs $syslog mountall netatalk
# Required-Stop:     $remote_fs $syslog mountall netatalk
# Default-Start:     2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop:      0 1 6
# Short-Description: Manage encrypted vault
# Description:


. $CONFFILE > /dev/null 2>&1

if [ -z ${SPARSEFILE} ] || [ -z ${VAULT} ]; then
    echo "Required parameters missing.
	  Please configure $CONFFILE

	  # Example #
    exit 1

if [ ! $ENABLE ]; then
   echo "$0 disabled in $CONFFILE. Please set ENABLE=true and retry"
   exit 1

checkconfig () {
if grep -q "^/dev/mapper/$VAULT" /etc/fstab && grep -q "^$VAULT" /etc/crypttab ; then
    echo "$VAULT doesn't seem configured in /etc/fstab or /etc/crypttab.\nUnble to continue."

mount_myarchive () {
 /sbin/losetup /dev/loop0 $SPARSEFILE
 /sbin/cryptdisks_start $VAULT
 /bin/mount /dev/mapper/$VAULT

umount_myarchive () {
 /bin/umount /dev/mapper/$VAULT
 /sbin/cryptdisks_stop $VAULT
 /sbin/losetup -d /dev/loop0

case "$1" in
        echo "Enabling and mounting $VAULT"
        echo "Umounting and disabling $VAULT"
	[ $CHK -eq 0 ] && echo "Check OK" || echo "Check FAILED"
        echo "Usage: $0 start|stop|check"
        exit 1

exit 0

This script requires also a /etc/defaults/crypt-myvault configuration file:

# Conf file for /etc/init.d/crypt-myvault

To finish, we need to enable the script:

# update-rc.d crypt-myvault defaults

We need to be sure that this script runs AFTER the USB drive is mounted. So… I’ve added ‘netatalk’ as required-start in the header of the init script, as I’ve noticed that once netatalk starts, the USB disk is already mounted.
I’m sure there is a better/nicer way, but this seems to work well for me šŸ™‚


LUKS passphrases: Changing, adding, removing