The two main methods of USB protection are using software applications (installed on the USB device) or secure hardware devices (built with security chips embedded in them). Here I’ll show you what the benefits and drawbacks of each approach are over the other.
It is critical to secure USB device contents especially given the potential for these devices being lost so easily and falling into the wrong hands. It only takes a few minutes to use low cost data recovery tools to locate lost or hidden documents on drive (including formatted USB devices).
Software manufacturers have been playing catch-up (e.g. True Crypt, Bit Locker To Go) to produce software that can encrypt the contents of your drive using their own algorithm. In parallel to this, hardware manufacturers of USB devices (e.g. Verbatim, Iron Key) have started creating their own upgraded USB flash drives which include security chips to encrypt all contents.
The great thing about using USB protection software is that you can make good use of all those USB flash drives you have sitting around on your desk and secure each one. All you have to do is install the application, set a password and then encrypt contents. Many of the commercial applications can also synchronizing with corporate backup software so that data is synchronized from your work computer to your secure USB drive.
By contrast, USB protection devices provide a higher grade level of security. Even if the device is broken open and the memory read directly (using Flash memory reading devices) it will be impossible to decrypt the information. For this reason it is the preferred option in secure work environments (e.g. government/financial institutions).
The deciding factor for many companies however will be the cost. In this regard, the secure USB drives containing security chips simply work out much more expensive than purchasing the software. So, many people will still opt for the software solutions until the cost of secure devices decreases.