Cloud key management firm Gazzang is offering Ubuntu users the huge convenience of being able to securely back up and recover eCryptfs encryption keys used to scramble files in the home directory.

For Ubuntu users, the ‘home’ directory is a vital element of the operating system’s architecture, with the ability to encrypt a private directory using the Linux eCryptfs file system within this. Support was added four years ago with Ubuntu 8.10.

The eCryptfs system encrypts and decrypts files on the fly, mounting at logon using a random password, but the risk is that this can be forgotten or lost.

Gazzang’s zEscrow utility provides a way of storing key data, backing up a user’s eCryptfs configuration to the cloud, associating this with a Google account.

To reinstate the configuration, the user authenticated through Google OpenID at the zEscrow site, and reinstates the correct ‘deposit’ before running the 'ecryptfs-recover-private' utility.

“If a user forgets his login password, or loses his randomly generated mount passphrase, all of their data could be lost forever," said Gazzang chief architect, Dustin Kirkland.

"zEscrow alleviates this pain by enabling Ubuntu users to securely store their encryption passphrases for easy retrieval later.”

The utility is available now with the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS archive and is compatible with previous versions of the OS.