Flash discs are small and portable, so they are easy to lose. The drives themselves are cheap to replace but the information stored within could be confidential or irreplaceable. To combat this flash drive security software protects the data from unauthorized use if the drive is lost of stolen.
There is an abundance of flash drives because they are versatile. They can be read by computers with operating systems like Linux, Mac OS X and Windows as well as other devices like PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, DVD players and some mobile smartphones.
Today drives are marketed that store up to 256 GB of information, so important files or programs could be lost. Software solutions now exist that enable the USB’s data to be encrypted automatically. Operating systems like Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows 7 provide data protection software which allows a password to be added to the disc.
Some USB drives take this further. Businesses with classified information should use flash drives with TrueCrypt encryption software. Setting up the drive is fairly easy. Initially you are asked to create a ‘container’ which is a secure area of storage on the drive. Before it’s encrypted, this area can be made invisible to prying eyes.
The encryption options follow the set up of the ‘container’ and the closer the instructions are followed, the more secure the information will be. A password containing 20 + characters in a combination of numbers, letters and symbols is recommended and TrueCrypt also suggest that the password is something that can be plausibly denied “In case an adversary forces you to reveal the password.” It leaves no ‘fingerprint’ on your drive or files indicating the existence of protected data, so you can confidently claim that there isn’t any, if you are asked the question.
This sort of protection is a little excessive for most people’s requirements, but is in the market place because there have been a few high profile examples of security breaches due to the loss of an unsecured USB disc. In the UK, information on 6,500 pensioners was lost by HM Revenue and Customs and in America, a stolen USB stick full of classified US Army details was put on sale in Afghanistan.
But we don’t all require government backed protection. Most of us want protection from our own mistakes. Leaving a USB device in the computer with the files unlocked is something that most people would think nothing of, but the data and the drive are vulnerable when linked to a PC. One supplier has provided the solution. It involves automatic relocking of the files when inactive for a set period of time.
None of these features come cheap. Expect to pay anywhere up to 150 dollars for this sort of protection. For that money, the data really has to be confidential. The type of USB memory stick that most of us require will be around 4GB and contain password protection that automatically deletes the contents after a set amount of failed attempts. These cost less than 10 dollars and can be bought from specialist computer stores, online retailers, electronics shops as well as convenience stores. Or check out some of the inexpensive thumb drive security software available.