Should we be encrypting our portable storage devices?

One of my friends purchased a Flash Drive to transfer work between computers. She asked me if her data will be secure on it and thought It would be a great idea to write an article explaining this query…

Those who follow me might know that I’m not a big fan of using flash drives as there is so much that could go wrong with them. However, on this occasion the flash drive was being used for what it was designed for, to transfer data.

My friend who prefers not to be named is a Windows user, I recommended to use BitLocker which is a great tool built into certain versions of Windows including Windows 7 Ultimate & Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Pro & Enterprise and Windows 10 Pro.

There are many other free options available if you aren’t a Windows User such as FileVault on Mac or VeraCrypt which works on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Here is a great article by Aurel George Proorocu on how to use BitLocker to encrypt your flash drive…

So why is it a good idea to encrypt out portable storage devices?

If we take flash drives into consideration, these are tiny devices that are easy to lose and if you store confidential data on it, it will almost certainly mean that your data is compromised, I mean, anyone can gain access to your data. It might be for good reasons such as trying to give the flash drive back to you or it could be for bad reasons and it’s impossible to determine what the person that finds the flash drive will do unless you know them.

To answer my friend’s question, I recommended using BitLocker as she wasn’t going to use it as an everyday device for storing data. It was just to be used for a week or two. According to Sam Wiltshire from Ontrack…

“Hardware encryption is safer than software encryption because the encryption process is separate from the rest of the machine. This makes it much harder to intercept or break”.

Sam Wiltshire, 12th September 2017. Full Article is available here

In other words, if you are planning to use your flash drive as a permanent device, you will be better off with a flash drive that supports hardware-based encryption. There are plenty of these on the market but they do come at a price. A great example of such device is the Corsair Padlock Flash drive but a 16 GB stick does cost around £39.99. But Using software-based encryption is still better than nothing!

So do we encrypt our portable storage devices?

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. Your data will be more secure if you encrypt your drive. If the data is confidential, your USB drive should be encrypted. If it’s not, it’s still worth encrypting but it’s just an option.

There are a number of things to bear in mind when encrypting your drive…

  • You will need a recovery option if you forget your Password. BitLocker gives you a recovery key.
  • It can take time for you to log-in to the drive

What do you think about encrypting your flash drive? Let us know in the comments!

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