Security is becoming as to as ever. In this modern world, information is a valuable commodity. Hackers have been getting creative in infiltrating primary security measures. Moreover, people are becoming less vigilant in taking care of their personal information and files.
There are several media storage available these days. Magnetic drives are getting cheaper. Solid state drives are becoming more common. And, portable USB drives are increasing in size. The latter makes it possible to transfer files between machines with ease. Thus, it has become a popular mode of storage.
Even in the corporate world, thumb drives are quite standard. A SanDisk survey identifies different kinds of data that most corporate end-users frequently copy. Their 2008 survey shows 25% of employees copy customer data in their USB drives. The same study identifies 17% of employees store financial information and 15% save business plans in their portable storage. The rest copy marketing plans, intellectual property, and source code in their USB drives.
Why Encrypt your USB Drive?
A SanDisk survey shows the necessity of protecting data in portable drives. In recent years, cybercriminals are venturing beyond the Internet to conduct their attacks.
For example, back in 2007, the pension details of more than 6,500 pensioners were leaked due to a misplaced portable storage device. In 2013, a contractor of Medicaid in Utah lost an unencrypted USB drive containing 6,000 patient records. Even the US military cannot escape the threat of hackers through portable storage. The 2008 US military cyber breach was found to be caused by an unsecured USB drive infected with malware.
The increasing use of USB drives in business and corporate setting makes it imperative to put security layers in place. The best way to protect data and storage is to encrypt it. Encryption is a useful first and last line of security. It reduces the likelihood of unauthorized entities to access encrypted drives.
Some USB drives have hardware encryption in place. Typically, it is in the form of a microchip which provides features such as pin-protected encryption or data override after entering the wrong password a couple of times. However, these types of USB drives are still relatively expensive.
Luckily, software encryption methods are getting better. There are even cheap or free solutions available. Take a look at some of the best USB encryption software.
Best USB Encryption Software
The solutions below are some of the best free or affordable USB encryption around. Most are easy to use and requires almost no technical knowledge.
#1 - StorageCrypt
StorageCrypt is a lightweight encryption software with an intuitive interface. It uses 128-bit AES encryption for maximum security. It can handle hard drives, firewire hard drives, flash drives, SD cards, and more. StorageCrypt can encrypt up to 2048 GB of storage devices. You can quickly set a password and start encrypting immediately. Moreover, it is portable, and you can decrypt without having to install the software on a computer.
#2 - DiskCryptor
DiskCryptor is a free and an open-source full disk encryption tool. It can encrypt portable media, hard drives, and even individual partitions. It uses AES-256, Twofish, Serpent or a combination of the algorithms to encrypt files and drives. DiskCryptor has a straightforward interface which is very easy to use. Interestingly, it can also encrypt optical discs and even the system boot-loader. Encrypted USB drives need to be mounted via DiskCryptor to decrypt.
#3 - Rohos Disk Encryption
Rohos Disk Encryption is a feature-rich encryption software with a few more extra functions. Its primary purpose is to encrypt different types of volumes. The encryption software allows you to enlarge the size of the volume as you needed dynamically. It uses the NIST-approved AES encryption algorithm and 256-bit encryption key length. You can quickly create a partition on the USB drive with shortcuts to open them. Rohos Disk Encryption also comes with a portable component which you can easily install onto any USB drive.
#4 - LaCie Private-Public
LaCie Private-Public was developed to be as simple and as straightforward as possible. It is a perfect solution if you don't need any bells and whistles on your encryption software. The security tool is a portable app which means it doesn't need any installation to work. Encryption is as easy as inserting the USB drive, specify the disk size to be encrypted, and entering the password. It will encrypt the drive or part of the drive using the standard AES 256 algorithm. Accessing the USB drive requires mounting it from the LaCie Private-Public tool.
#5 - Gilisoft USB Stick Encryption
Gilisoft USB Stick Encryption is another robust tool if you need simple encryption software. Just like the previous entry, it does not have any extra features and only focuses on its encryption function. However, its power lies in its simplicity. It automatically detects when USB drive connects to the computer. Setting-up the password and encrypting the USB drive takes a few clicks. It divides the portable storage into a public and a private area. As an additional feature, it allows recovery of the secure access application need it gets deleted in the USB drive.
#6 - GNU Privacy Guard
GNU Privacy Guard, or GnuPG, is a perfect tool for users who need more from their encryption tool. It is not an encryption software specific for USB drives. The security tool is a universal crypto engine which can handle individual files, disk images, volumes, and, of course, external drives. GnuPG is a command line tool which can also run in shell scripts or through other programs. It supports AES, ElGamal, DSA, SHA2, Twofish, RSA, and a lot more algorithms. GNU Privacy Guard is so capable that it has become the standard encryption backend of most free and open source software.
#7 - BitLocker
BitLocker is a full disk encryption software that comes with most Windows operating system. It is a native security application in Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise editions. And, it only works with computers with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip which enables device security support. BitLocker To Go is the software's version which encrypts USB flash drives, SD cards, external hard drives, and other hard drives in NTFS, FAT16, FAT32, or exFAT file systems. Here is a quick guide to BitLocker Drive encryption in Windows 10.
#8 - VeraCrypt
VeraCrypt is one of the most popular encryption software in the market. It is a free, open-source encryption solution based on TrueCrypt. The security software uses the industry standard SHA-2, AES, Serpent, and Twofish algorithms for strong encryption. It can encrypt portable volumes using a password or a key file. The interface presents all the options without overwhelming the user. You need to mount the USB drive VeraCrypt to decrypt it.
#Bonus - 7-Zip
In cases when you don't want to encrypt your entire portable drive but still want to protect your files, you can use 7-Zip to encrypt your file archive quickly. First, put all your files in a folder. Right-click on the folder and choose Add to archive.. in the 7-zip context menu just like you would when you are compressing data. On the 7-Zip window, enter a secure password in the Encryption section. Choose AES-256 as the encryption method then click OK. 7-Zip will compress the file and encrypt it using the algorithm and your password.
Protecting your files and portable storage will save you from potential headaches in the future. Data breaches are becoming common nowadays. Their effects are getting more damaging as well. Whether you have your USB drive for personal or business use, it is essential to protect any information in it. It is also a good idea to backup your files to another location.