USB Protection – Software & Hardware Options For Password Protecting Flash Devices

by Rod Dunne on September 13, 2010

in Articles, Hardware, Security

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Security software and encryption chips have long been used for fixing computers security gaps, but USB protection has only recently begun to be just as important. A lost key can easily store thousands of documents which others can all too easily access. Here, we’ll show how USB protection software and hardware can be used to encrypt the device’s contents.

Why Password Protection For USB Keys Is Needed

At an individual level, you would not wish for anyone to see your financial details, emails, passwords, college notes or any of the other wealth of personal information we store on portable media. At worst someone, could have access to your login information and account details.

Likewise, employees storing customer data, financial information, intellectual property or source code on USB devices could equally cause major brand damage if this information was leaked to the press or competitors.

So, just as we protect our laptop with Windows passwords, we should also password protect USB storage.

USB Protection Software

There are many applications now on the market that can password protect USB contents. Most operate in a similar manner, using their own algorithms along with whatever password(s) you enter to encrypt files to ensure no-one else may read them. Some applications also provide synchronization functionality that can prove handy for backing up data between devices.

Flash Security Applications: True Crypt, BitLocker to Go, Free OTFE.

Advantages:

  • Can reuse old/existing flash memory devices.
  • Can incorporate a company’s own backup software in some instances (synchronizing files with shared network locations).

Disadvantages:

  • May be prone to being easily deciphered if users enter weak passwords. Some hackers could recover USB contents by scanning the drive for lost/deleted files that were not encrypted (files, passwords, etc.).

Using Hardware For USB Password Protection

Computers have long had the capability of using specialist security chips to encrypt all data transparently as it is saved, whether a password is used or not. Some vendors (for example, Lexar, IronKey, Edge and Verbatim) now provide a chip-based password protection for USB keys as part of their secure product ranges.

Advantages:

  • Transparent data encryption will ensure USB flash security for all data by encrypting the memory, making it unreadable even with data recovery software.
  • Companies can restrict employees to using only these devices.
  • Additional data protection features may include date wiping if the password is incorrectly entered three times.

Disadvantages:

  • Cost more than standard keys so may prove too costly for a company-wide roll-out.

USB password protection should become a standard part of how you use external storage products. This should be done in parallel with keeping backups of the drive’s data, as it is only when you lose a key drive do you realize its importance.

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