USB flash drives are known for their portability, durability, and compatibility with most devices. They’re considered to be one of the best mediums for carrying and sharing digital data between computers.
Because of this, many people entrust these devices with their most precious documents, files, and media. Unfortunately, many people tend to lose them or forget them in coffee shops, libraries and computer labs because they’re built so small.
Many people store private files on their flash drives that they would rather not have anyone else access. For example, you could have copies of your various usernames and passwords, financial statements, legal documents, or other sensitive files. A flash drive makes your files portable, but not necessarily safe from unauthorized access.
In order to protect your data from being accessed from an unauthorized user, you’ll need to secure your thumb drives with some form of high level encryption. There are various ways and useful resources that can help you do this. Here we’ll discuss some of the easiest, cheapest methods available to secure your USB flash drive with top level encryption.
This is a highly-rated, powerful freeware program that makes encrypted volumes on your flash drive. TrueCrypt allows you to create multiple hidden folders or even an entire hidden copy of a hard drive. It renders your actual stored files completely unreadable without the proper access key, making it virtually impossible to distinguish which components of the encrypted flash drive hold data at all.
TrueCrypt wins points for putting very little strain on your flash drive. It’s extremely fast and performs encryption and decryption using only a small fraction of memory.
This freeware offers to modes of encryption. With the first mode, you can create an encrypted volume as a file on your USB drive. Without the password or key file, no one else can access that specific file and anyone who makes a copy of the encrypted volume will only be able to see random bytes of data.
With the second mode, you can encrypt your entire flash drive altogether. No one will be able to plug in your USB and access it from a computer without the proper password and key file. In a way, this method is the most secure, but keep in mind that if you happen to forget your password, it will be very difficult if not impossible to access your flash drive again.
Overall, TrueCrypt is my strongest recommendation for the best disk encryption software solution. It stores unlimited amounts of data, is very secure, and best of all, it’s completely free.
Rohos Mini Drive
Unlike TrueCrypt, Rohos Mini Drive is made specifically for use on USB Drives. With the free edition of its software, you can create a hidden, password-protected, and encrypted partition of up to 2GB of data on your flash drive. Rohos Mini Drive uses automatic top-level encryption with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256 bit key length.
The software also includes the portable Rohos Disk Browser, which is saved onto your flash drive during the installation process. The advantage of this is you won’t need any encryption drivers installed directly onto each and every computer system you happen to use. In other words, you can use the
Thanks to the portable Rohos Disk Browser, which is installed directly on your flash drive, no encryption drivers need to be available on the local system. Subsequently the protected data will be accessible anywhere.
Using Rohos Mini Drive is pretty easy overall. Just connect your USB drive and launch the program. The main interface gives you the option to set up a new flash drive or change your password. Creating partitions doesn’t take a lot of time at all. In fact it runs pretty fast in most cases. But it will ultimately depend on the size of the partition and in some cases the overall size of the drive as well.
The last cool feature for Rohos Mini Drive is that you can open your protected USB drive on computer systems where you don’t have administrator rights. So in terms of portability, this is by far the simplest option. The freeware maximum of 2GB is kind of a downer though, but hey it’s free after all.
Encrypted USB Drives
You could also purchase a USB drive that comes with its own built in encryption. AES 256 bit encryption USB drives are extremely powerful and allow you to designate a secure area on your drive for your most private files, while leaving an open area for the less sensitive files. Everything on the drive is password protected and in some cases has some extra features that help protect you against viruses and other hacks.
If you want the absolute highest level of USB security, then you’ll want to get your hands on the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) certified flash drives. These flash drives are specifically designed for corporate level regulatory compliance. Security features on these 256-bit encryption USB flash drives include mandatory user login, password hashing algorithm and hack-resistant password entry. Pretty hardcore stuff.
December 12, 2012 at 5:29 pm
I do use a flash drive to keep all my documents in a safe place. I had a hard drive failure a while back and lost everything. It was so bad that nothing could be salvaged from the drive. I had about half of my documents stored on a flash drive so I could restore half of what I had. The rest I lost. I now do a regular backup to my flash drive. I did not know that you could make a flash drive password protected. This is good to know because my flash drive sits on my computer table and anyone could pick it up and get all of my information. This is a scary thought. Your article has brought something to my attention that I will take into consideration before it is too late. Thank you for the advise