Are there any built in command-line tools that I can encrypt and decrypt a text file (and provide it some sort of password).

  • 1
    Built in = comes with the Mac, pre-installed?
    – wizlog
    Dec 21, 2011 at 21:02

3 Answers 3


openssl comes pre-installed on Mac OS X.

You can use the following commands:

# encrypt file.txt to file.enc using 256-bit AES in CBC mode
openssl enc -aes-256-cbc -salt -in file.txt -out file.enc

# the same, only the output is base64 encoded for, e.g., e-mail
openssl enc -aes-256-cbc -a -salt -in file.txt -out file.enc

# decrypt binary file.enc
openssl enc -d -aes-256-cbc -in file.enc -out file.txt

# decrypt base64-encoded version
openssl enc -d -aes-256-cbc -a -in file.enc -out file.txt

(copied from OpenSSL Command-Line HOWTO: How do I simply encrypt a file?)

You will be prompted for a password. You can also specify a password on the command-line using -pass pass:mySillyPassword or -pass file:/path/to/secret/password.txt

These commands use 256-bit AES ecryption with Cipher Block Chaining (CBC), which is about as secure as it gets right now.

  • 1
    where do you enter your password? Jan 10, 2012 at 22:38
  • 4
    Once you executed any of the above openssl commands, it asks you to enter aes-256-cbc encryption password.
    – Dennis
    Jan 10, 2012 at 23:45
  • 2
    @codecompleting Or specify -pass pass:MYSECRETPASSWORD, although the password is then of course not hidden from ps, etc.
    – Asclepius
    Nov 10, 2014 at 5:05
  • 2
    @Wildcard Yes, the salt (actually, initialization vector) gets stored with the ciphertext in the encrypted file.
    – Dennis
    Apr 20, 2016 at 1:40
  • 1
    @KolobCanyon Encryption is never lossy. By definition, it requires being able to decrypt the ciphertext to restore the original plaintext. Just don't forget the key.
    – Dennis
    Jan 1, 2017 at 16:42

I've built a shell script for that. You can use it on Mac or on Linux.

#encrypt files with aes-256-cbc cipher using openssl

#encrypt files
if [ $1 == "-e" ];
    if [ -f "$2" ];
    openssl aes-256-cbc -a -e -salt -in "$2" -out "$2.aes"
       echo "This file does not exist!" 
#decrypt files
elif [ $1 == "-d" ];
    if [ -f "$2" ];
        openssl aes-256-cbc -a -d -salt -in "$2" -out "$2.decrypt"
        echo "This file does not exist!" 
#show help
elif [ $1 == "--help" ];
    echo "This software uses openssl for encrypting files with the aes-256-cbc cipher"
    echo "Usage for encrypting: ./encrypt -e [file]"
    echo "Usage for decrypting: ./encrypt -d [file]"
    echo "This action does not exist!"
    echo "Use ./encrypt --help to show help."

Simply save this in a text file in issue chmod +x file to make it executable. after that use ./filename --help to get infos.

  • 2
    Needless use of -a will needlessly bloat the output file.
    – Asclepius
    Nov 10, 2014 at 5:00

Mac OS X has the ability to create encrypted container files (similar to e.g. Truecrypt), that can optionally grow with the amount of data placed in them. Use Disk Utility to do this.

In Disk Utility, select File » New » Blank Disk Image… with one of the sparse image formats. Select AES-128 or AES-256 as encryption.

From the command line, the same functionality is available via the hdiutil program.

  • A bit overkill for a single text file intended for command line access, isn't it? Can you open the file later via Linux et. al.?
    – Wildcard
    Apr 20, 2016 at 1:17
  • @Wildcard Possibly (scope has a tendency to change); and no, but wasn't part of the question.
    – Daniel Beck
    Apr 20, 2016 at 6:18
  • @DanielBeck, output bit identical as Ans1?
    – Pacerier
    Mar 7, 2019 at 17:52

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