New to Ubuntu 8.10 is a nifty seamless encryption feature. It’s always been possible to encrypt individual files/folders in Ubuntu but it involved creating a key pair and then individually encrypting files. To view or edit the file, it was necessary to decrypt it and then re-encrypt it again if changes were made. Messy.

The new feature creates an encrypted filestore, mounted in the Private folder in your /home directory. This is automatically locked and unlocked as you log in and out, so accessing it is seamless and transparent. Other users won’t be able to access it, and it isn’t possible to see its contents by booting into rescue mode.

To activate the feature, just type the following two commands:

sudo apt-get install ecryptfs-utils


Follow the prompts shown and then log out and back in again. Once the desktop reappears, you’ll see a new Private directory in your /home folder, where you can save data, as with any other directory.

The rumors are that, if this feature is successful, there will be an option to encrypt the entire /home directory for each user in future Ubuntu releases. And why not? Provided there’s limited performance overhead, and if it is as seamlessly integrated as this, it’s an essential feature.

Also on the security front, ClamAV has been moved into the officially-supported repositories, so Ubuntu now has an effective antivirus program that’s guaranteed to be updated for the 18 month life of Ubuntu 8.10. ClamAV’s inclusion in Ubuntu was previously a little touch-and-go, making it an unreliable choice.

Ubuntu: A User’s Look at Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex.