Encrypting and decrypting

If you don’t choose to encrypt your file when you run jrnl for the first time, you can encrypt your existing journal file or change its password using this:

jrnl --encrypt

If it is already encrypted, you will first be asked for the current password. You can then enter a new password and your plain journal will replaced by the encrypted file. Conversely,

jrnl --decrypt

will replace your encrypted journal file with a journal in plain text. You can also specify a filename, i.e. jrnl --decrypt plain_text_copy.txt, to leave your original file untouched.

Storing passwords in your keychain

Whenever you encrypt your journal, you are asked whether you want to store the encryption password in your keychain. If you do this, you won’t have to enter your password every time you want to write or read your journal.

If you don’t initially store the password in the keychain but decide to do so at a later point – or maybe want to store it on one computer but not on another – you can run jrnl --encrypt on an encrypted journal and use the same password again.

A note on security

While jrnl follows best practices, total security is an illusion. There are a number of ways that people can at least partially compromise your jrnl data. See the Privacy and Security documentation for more information.

No password recovery

There is no method to recover or reset your jrnl password. If you lose it, your data is inaccessible.

Manual decryption

Should you ever want to decrypt your journal manually, you can do so with any program that supports the AES algorithm in CBC. The key used for encryption is the SHA-256-hash of your password, the IV (initialisation vector) is stored in the first 16 bytes of the encrypted file. The plain text is encoded in UTF-8 and padded according to PKCS#7 before being encrypted. Here’s a Python script that you can use to decrypt your journal:

#!/usr/bin/env python3

import argparse
from Crypto.Cipher import AES
import getpass
import hashlib
import sys

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
parser.add_argument("filepath", help="journal file to decrypt")
args = parser.parse_args()

pwd = getpass.getpass()
key = hashlib.sha256(pwd.encode('utf-8')).digest()

with open(args.filepath, 'rb') as f:
    ciphertext = f.read()

crypto = AES.new(key, AES.MODE_CBC, ciphertext[:16])
plain = crypto.decrypt(ciphertext[16:])
plain = plain.strip(plain[-1:])
plain = plain.decode("utf-8")