How to Keep Data on USB Flash Drives Safe
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using USB drives?
It's true that USB drives offer a large number of security advantages over regular or cloud storage methods, however, they are also not without their own built-in risks. In fact, one of the biggest data breaches in the world almost happened back in 2008, when a USB flash drive, which was corrupted by malware was inserted into a computer belonging to the American Department of Defense. This incident resulted in a massive security breach and information leak in what was described as a "wake up call" for the American government.
Now, you're not the government or an intelligence agency so it's pretty unlikely that an infected USB drive will be quite as devastating for you but there are still a number of potential security risks you need to know about if you intend to use a flash drive often. You should be aware that USB drives can carry all kinds of nasty malware, viruses, browser hijackers, and trojans. You will have to make sure you are properly prepared in case your machine does get infected. The goal of this article is to help you with that. We've prepared five simple tips for ensuring complete security for your flash drives.
Encrypt your USB flash drive
We'll start off with the most draconic security option we've got. This is the strongest security measure you can take via normal means. Let me start off by saying you don't have to buy any new tech to encrypt your USB flash drive. All you have to do is download the appropriate app like the open-source TrueCrypt from Sourceforge or VeraCrypt. It doesn't matter which app you choose. Both will let you select your own encryption code and password. It should be noted that these apps work for smaller USB drives only.
Make sure you have the best type of flash drive
Whether you know this or not most flash drives are not the same. They're made by different companies and sometimes they have different specs. Some USB drives come with pre-installed security features. Like every other piece of technology out there some companies aren't quite as secure and as advanced as others. Check out some reviews of brands you're interested in like you would for a computer or phone before you purchase anything. That way you will know what to check for.
Lock your files with passwords
Don't worry, this isn't as complicated as it sounds. You don't have to go through every single file and put a password on it individually. Any files you have that were created with Microsoft Office can be assigned a password whenever you're saving the file. Also, if you're in a hurry you can simply lock entire folders and sections of your flash drive with passwords if you have Windows 10 or MacOS10. Also, if you want an extra layer of security you can use an app like Rohos for extra security.
Don't interact with other flash drives or devices too much
This is more of a general advice thing than a technical thing. Why? Because most USB drive security breaches happen when those flash drives are infected by another device which was already infected by malware or viruses. The most common reason for infection is cross-contamination. So avoid sticking your USB drive into computers you don't own. And whatever you do you definitely don't want to use a business flash drive on your personal computer or vice versa. It needs to be especially stressed that under no circumstances should you ever use an unknown drive on your machine, and if you absolutely have to do it then run malware scans as soon as you can. Also, make sure you the most up to date version of your anti-virus program enabled.
Buy a hardware-encrypted flash drive
You have the option to get all of the protection you need in one drive if you're willing to pay for it by purchasing a flash drive on steroids with encrypted hardware. These drives can cost up to hundreds of dollars and they are usually used by security services, so they're about the safest and most secure thing you can get. It might be appropriate to get one if your data is that valuable.