If you’re like me and store sensitive information from time to on your USB Flash drive then you need to secure that flash drive to Protect Your Identity or simply just protect your data. Password protection along with encryption is an obvious approach that will keep wandering eyes off your information. Let’s review some free open source software you can use to easily accomplish a high level of USB flash drive security as well as hardware options that can be purchased for that out of the box type security some of us are more comfortable with.
You can find an array of USB flash drive products on the market which offer encryption and password protection. If you have invested heavily in a USB Flash Drive one could use Truecrypt to protect the data on this drive. Truecrypt will encrypt the data on the flash drive as well as password protect it. TrueCrypt enables the user to easily encrypt the data on their USB Flash Drive with the selection from a wide range of industry standard algorithms.
If you ever forget or loss the password you could use DBAN to erase the data on that drive. DBAN A.K.A Darik’s Boot and Nuke is free and of course open source.
Truecrypts website isn’t really organized the way I would have done it. I’ll give you some simple steps to get you up and running as well as some troubleshooting tips in case you run into issues.
Download and install TrueCrypt. Then launch TrueCrypt by double-clicking the file TrueCrypt.exe or by clicking the TrueCrypt shortcut in your Windows Start menu.
Now we will create a container within your flash drive where you encrypted files will reside
In this step you need to choose where you wish the TrueCrypt volume to be created. A TrueCrypt volume can reside in a file, which is also called container, in a partition or drive. Here I’ll show you how to make a TrueCrypt volume within a file on your flash drive. This is also the default option so you can just click Next.
Do you want a standard or hidden TrueCrypt volume? Lets do a standard TrueCrypt volume. Standard volume just means everyone can see the encrypted volume. Hidden means it’s hidden and no one can easily see it.
Now here you need to select your flash drive as the location you wish to place your encrypted volume. Note that a TrueCrypt container is just like any normal file. It can be moved, copied and deleted as any normal file. It also needs a filename, which you will choose in the next step. It’s a container for files.. not a file. Sounds confusing but hang in there it will make sense in the end.
Okay create the TrueCrypt volume on your flash drive and the filename of the volume (container) will be My Volume.
IMPORTANT: Note that TrueCrypt will not encrypt any existing files. If you select an existing file, it will be overwritten and replaced by the newly created volume (so the overwritten file will be lost, not encrypted). You will be able to encrypt existing files (later on) by moving them to the TrueCrypt volume that we are creating now.*
Click next.. LOL did you really need this step?
Here are your encryption option. The default options are fine. You can bump up the encryption level a good bit by selecting AES 256 but that will slow things down a bit when accessing files in this container. Click Next
Volume Size – If you want the encrypted container to use up all of your flash drive then input the amount of free space shown.
This is one of the most important steps. Here you have to choose a good volume password and all passwords should be at least 13 characters or more. Just a passphrase instead of a password. Passphrase can be something like “Iliketopetdogs” its easy but long and will take a long time for a password cracker to figure out. After you choose a good password, type it in the first input field. Then re-type it in the input field below the first one and click Next.
Move your mouse as randomly as possible within the Volume Creation Wizard window at least for 30 seconds. The longer you move the mouse, the better. This significantly increases the cryptographic strength of the encryption keys (which increases security).
Volume creation should begin. TrueCrypt will now create a file called My Volume in the folder D:\My Documents\ (as we specified in Step 6). This file will be a TrueCrypt container (it will contain the encrypted TrueCrypt volume). Depending on the size of the volume, the volume creation may take a long time. A box will pop up when you’re done encrypting your flash drive. Click OK to close the dialog box that pops up.
Now it’s time to mount the volume we just created. It must be mounted so you can dump files into it. We will return to the main TrueCrypt window (which should still be open, but if it is not, repeat Step 1 to launch TrueCrypt)
Select a drive letter from the list. This will be the drive letter to which the TrueCrypt container will be mounted.
Click Select File.
The standard file selector window should appear.
Select the volume we created earlier called “My Volume” – it should be on your USB flash drive but if you can’t find it just do a file search for “my volume”
Once you have selected the file click OK - Now in the main TrueCrypt window, click Mount.
A password box will pop up.. just put in the password / passphrase you created earlier in step 10.
Now you’re all done. Wasn’t that easy? Just add files to that mounted drive and they will be placed in a password protect encrypted volume.