This post is a followup to the recent post on backing up your data on flash drives. As stated, keeping your important data safe is extremely important. Keeping a copy with you, and in a remote location is required practice for me. But keeping your data safe is much more than just keeping a copy of your data around in case of hardware failure, fire, or evacuation. You need to actually protect the data itself.
Nowadays, people should be familiar with the concept of Identity Theft, and the threat it poses in your everyday life. With even basic information about you, a fraudster can cause huge problems to you, now imagine if they picked up a nice little flash drive that had copies of everything from birth certificates to bank statements? Of course you should be very careful with your nice little key fob, but you’re probably careful with keys and wallet too, and how many people lose those?
Because of this, some people advocate tools such as the IronKey, and amazing little device, but at quite the price. With very little effort, you can have the same security (sans-autodestruct) to your own memory sticks.
Enter TrueCrypt, one of several tools I hope to showcase here to help people keep their data safe. TrueCrypt is an Open Source program (Free in the truest meaning of the word) that works in Windows, Apple, and Linux based computers, and allows people to create virtual drives of encrypted data, or to encrypt whole drives such as your little memory stick.
Here is how it works, after you install the software, you can tell it that you have a memory stick (or other drive) that you would like to have encrypted. Given an empty stick, it will write it’s own data, a type of container to the drive. You can choose from several very strong forms of encryption, and it will do all the hard work for you in setting things up. The main thing you provide is the memory stick, and a password. The program then “mounts” this new drive, so it looks like a normal drive to you.
You can read, and write as you will to your drive, without noticing anything different. So how does this help you? Well, when you eject your memory stick, your encryption path goes away. Anyone looking at your data sees just unusable garbage. The only way to get it running is to give it the password you provided originally.
Now you have data that is safe, even when lost. And yet you can always access it with your key. Any computer you put TrueCrypt on has the capability to get your data. This is especially handy when taking things to work, or public terminals.
To install and begin using TrueCrypt, first Download it, then check out their beginners guide. It will walk you through setting up your first encrypted volume. Don’t worry that it might be over your head, it takes care of all the hard work, making it easy to keep yourself safer. I’d recommend doing this not only for your portable information, but even keeping a volume on your home computers to store your important data, keeping it away from would-be thieves.