We have passwords for everything. Bank cards, smartphones, e-mails, laptops, even certain websites, all require a password and perhaps even a 2-step verification process to make sure that our private and information is secure. However, when it comes to documents and files that are stored on our portable storage we don’t always consider encoding it.
As most of you will know the security of Apple’s iCloud has been under scrutiny over the past week given the recent entertainment news that images of celebrities have been stolen and leaked, and although most of us ‘normal folk’ don’t have racy images of ourselves on our devices, it should make you ask the question ‘How secure is my personal data?’.
As many of us work and socialise on a variety of different machines and devices, from our work computer, to our home laptop to our tablet, so we are becoming more reliant on portable storage to transport and save our photos, work files and other bits and bobs so we can have access to them wherever we are. However, how many of you have encrypted your portable storage? Well from now on you should!
Encrypted USB Flash Drives
Encrypted flash drives are available, although they are generally more expensive than the standard ones, and are password protected. There is still some stigma that the encrypted flash drives are not as powerful as the ones that aren’t, but there are now ones on the market that deliver USB 3.0 speeds.
An encrypted USB flash drive should be 256-bit Advance Encryption Standard (AES) encryption, which means that they are approved by the International standard to ensure high security, so always look out for this. Also keep your eyes peeled for whether they are hardware or software encryption. As a rule hardware encryption generally means they are faster and more secure, as the data on these models are automatically encrypted/decrypted through a AES chip in-built on the flash drive, whereas on a software model is only encrypted/decrypted through a program on the your computer.
Some encrypted flash drives also offer a password protection feature for super security and protection of your files. If you’re just storing family photos then this may not be as important for you, however if you’re storing your business files on there then this may be more applicable to you.
Non-encrypted Portable Storage
When it comes to securing portable storage devices that aren’t encrypted, there are pieces of software for both Mac and Windows PCs that will the security of your portable hard drive or device and files.
For Windows devices BitLocker encrypts hard drives on your computer, but when it comes to encrypting your portable devices you will need BitLocker To Go which is now available for Windows 8, 8 Pro, 8 Enterprise and all editions of Windows Server 2012.
Step 1) Connect your portable storage device and open up control panel.
Step 2) Search for, or find, BitLocker Drive Encryption and click Turn On BitLocker. Once clicked, BitLocker setup wizard will pop-up and will start the initialising process.
Step 3) You will be provided with two options of how you want to unlock the drive – you can choose either via a password (make sure it is a strong password using numbers, letters and characters), or by using your Smart Card (not everyone will have one of these, in this case, choose password).
Step 4) Next, you will be asked to back up your Recovery Key that will be able to unlock your data in the instance that you forget your password or lose your Smart Card.
Step 5) You will then be asked whether you want to encrypt the entire drive or just the space that you have taken up so far.
Step 6) Once you have chosen and clicked next, you can start encrypting your portable device. Once it has finished a pop-up message will appear saying encryption is complete!
For Mac users there are two ways to encrypt your devices.
OS X – Disk Utility
Disk Utility is the main way in which users of Apple Macs have encrypted their portable storage, but if you are going to do it this way make sure you temporarily store your data somewhere else, i.e on another device or on your desktop, as Disk Utility will erase everything that is on the device before starting the encryption process.
Step 1) Connect your portable storage device and open up Disk Utility.
Step 2) Click on your device and select Mac OS X Extended, then enter the chosen name of your device, then click erase.
Step 3) You will then be prompted to enter a new password as well as password hint. When completed click on the erase button.
Step 4) The erase and encryption formatting will then begin – once complete you will be able to add all of your files back onto your encrypted device, and you will be prompted for your password each time you open up your device.
OS X Mountain Lion
OS X Mountain Lion allows you to encrypt your USB stick (for example) in a much simpler way, and it doesn’t involve deleting any of your existing files.
Step 1) Connect your external drive to your Mac. Once you have found it, right click and click encrypt.
Step 2) You will be asked to enter a secure password, once you have chosen one that you can remember (but is not easy for other to guess) click the encrypt button and encryption will begin.
Step 3) Once the process has finished you can securely and safely store all of your data on your encrypted portable storage device.