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Encrypted files in Dropbox

Encrypted files in Dropbox

As we live in the age of smartphones and mobility access to the cloud, the more there is the need to access our files from anywhere. We need our files to be available on any computer, ours (private) or others (public). Traveling with your entire tech equipment is not always a good idea and with the era of cloud you dont need to bring everything with you.

There are a lot of cloud hosting files providers out there. On wikipedia there is a good Comparison of file hosting services article you can read.

I’ve started to use Dropbox for that reason. I use dropbox as a public digital bucket, to store and share public files. Every digital asset that is online is somehow public and only when you are using end-to-end encryption then you can say that something is more secure than before.

I also want to store some encrypted files on my cloud account, without the need to trust dropbox (or any cloud hosting file provider for that reason). As an extra security layer on top of dropbox, I use encfs and this blog post is a mini tutorial of a proof of concept.

EncFS - Encrypted Virtual Filesystem

(definition from encfs github account)

EncFS creates a virtual encrypted filesystem which stores encrypted data in the rootdir directory and makes the unencrypted data visible at the mountPoint directory. The user must supply a password which is used to (indirectly) encrypt both filenames and file contents.

That means that you can store your encrypted files somewhere and mount the decrypted files on folder on your computer.

Disclaimer: I dont know how secure is encfs. It is an extra layer that doesnt need any root access (except the installation part) for end users and it is really simple to use. There is a useful answer on stackexchange that you night like to read .

For more information on enfs you can also visit EncFS - Wikipedia Page

Install EncFS

  • archlinux

    $ sudo pacman -S --noconfirm encfs

  • fedora

    $ sudo dnf -y install fuse-encfs

  • ubuntu

    $ sudo apt-get install -y encfs

How does Encfs work ?

  • You have two(2) directories. The source and the mountpoint.
  • You encrypt and store the files in the source directory with a password.
  • You can view/edit your files in cleartext, in the mount point.
  1. Create a folder inside dropbox
    eg. /home/ebal/Dropbox/Boostnote

  2. Create a folder outside of dropbox
    eg. /home/ebal/Boostnote

both folders are complete empty.

  1. Choose a long password.
    just for testing, I am using a SHA256 message digest from an image that I can found on the internet!
    eg. sha256sum /home/ebal/secret.png

that means, I dont know the password but I can re-create it whenever I hash the image.

BE Careful This suggestion is an example - only for testing. The proper way is to use a random generated long password from your key password manager eg. KeePassX

How does dropbox works?

The dropbox-client is monitoring your /home/ebal/Dropbox/ directory for any changes so that can sync your files on your account.

You dont need dropbox running to use encfs.

Running the dropbox-client is the easiest way, but you can always use a sync client eg. rclone to sync your encrypted file to dropbox (or any cloud storage).

I guess it depends on your thread model. For this proof-of-concept article I run dropbox-client daemon in my background.


Create and Mount

Now is the time to mount the source directory inside dropbox with our mount point:

$ sha256sum /home/ebal/secret.png |
    awk '{print $1}' |
    encfs -S -s -f /home/ebal/Dropbox/Boostnote/ /home/ebal/Boostnote/

Reminder: EncFs works with absolute paths!

Check Mount Point

$ mount | egrep -i encfs
encfs on /home/ebal/Boostnote type fuse.encfs

View Files on Dropbox

Files inside dropbox:


View Files on the Mount Point


Unmount EncFS Mount Point

When you mount the source directory, encfs has an option to auto-umount the mount point on idle.
Or you can use the below command on demand:

$ fusermount -u /home/ebal/Boostnote

On another PC

The simplicity of this approach is when you want to access these files on another PC.
dropbox-client has already synced your encrypted files.
So the only thing you have to do, is to type on this new machine the exact same command as in Create & Mount chapter.

$ sha256sum /home/ebal/secret.png |
    awk '{print $1}' |
    encfs -S -s -f /home/ebal/Dropbox/Boostnote/ /home/ebal/Boostnote/


How about Android ?

You can use Cryptonite.

Cryptonite can use EncFS and TrueCrypt on Android and you can find the app on Google Play


Tag(s): encfs, dropbox