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We live in times that flash drives can carry personal data and sensitive information for companies, governments, and institutions. However, anything that’s got any sensitive information needs protection from unauthorized individuals. But how do you go about it?
You can password-protect the entire USB drive using tools such as BitLocker on a Windows PC or use third-party tools such as the Rohos mini drive that’ll encrypt a section of the flash drive, keeping your data secure. For mac users, formatting the drive using the HFS+ file system comes in handy.
By the end of this article, you should be able to secure your USB drive using several methods that I’ll be discussing as we progress in the simplest terms possible.
Whether you are an expert or a complete beginner in operating and handling computer programs, there’s no need to worry as I’ll be thorough in my explanations.
The short answer is, yes, you can.
USB drives, flash drives, or thumb drives: whatever you desire to call them, are more than keychain abettors utilized to convey fundamental data you wouldn’t have a desire to put online.
However, there’s one issue that irks most physical media. If you lose a CD, hard disk, or flash drive, any individual who discovers it can gain admittance to anything that’s inside.
Very much like securing your cell phone with a secret password, you can do a similar thing with your USB stick and protect it from unauthorized personnel that has got no password to access your files.
Shielding your data from unapproved access is significant and relatively straightforward as many tools and programs can assist you with protecting your documents from unapproved access.
In this guide, I’ll be illustrating what the best software for protecting your USB drive is.
These programs allow you to secrete the data, encrypt, add a password to secure your documents, etc. I painstakingly chose tools, methods, and programs compatible with most, if not all, flash drives.
There are several ways to secure a flash drive.
As per your liking, all of the methods are effective in their ways and depending upon your purpose. In this step, I want to discuss some of the most effective ways to securing data on your USB stick.
You can opt to protect individual files using Microsofts own inbuilt password protection feature or Macbooks disk utility tool.
Once someone tries opening a specific file, they’ll be required to key in the set password to access the file’s contents.
If you have any Ms. Office documents, then this method would work best for you. However, if the files are not in document format, then keep on reading.
The procedure to protecting your document is as follows;
- Open the file in Microsoft word by double-tapping on it
- Locate a tab named ‘info.’
- Now tap on the ‘protect document’ option
- Select ‘encrypt with password.’
- Set a password for the document and save it
If the files are not documents but other file extensions such as videos, music, or programs, then WinRAR software can help you secure the files from unauthorized access.
The program cannot only compress files but also encrypt them. Encrypted files will have a .rar extension.
The procedure to encrypting any file in WinRAR is as follows;
- Download the WinRAR program from the official website and install it
- Launch the program as an administrator
- Plug the USB drive into the computer
- Pick the files you’d like to password-protect and place them in one folder
- Right-click on the folder and tap on the ‘add to archive’ option
- Select Rar as the archive’s format and tap on the ‘set password’ button
- Enter your desired password in the pop up that appears and click ok
Your archive should get created with a Rar extension that will always require a password to open the encrypted data.
Ensure the password is something you can easily remember because once you lose it, say goodbye to the files you just encrypted.
Hardware-encrypted USB drives use custom hardware to encrypt/decrypt data, eliminating vulnerabilities associated with these flash drives. Nevertheless, this type of flash drive offers more and reliable security than the standard USB stick.
But, this comes at a price! The prices are a bit ridiculous and too expensive to spend on a USB stick unless you need the extra security.
AES, which stands for Advanced Encryption Standard, has been around for a long time and is primarily used in governments and financial institutions to protect crucial and vital information from the unwanted eye.
Even though this kind of drive is a bit expensive compared to most USB sticks people are used to, hardware-encrypted USB drives offer more security to your data than software-encrypted drives.
Hardware encryption is safer because the process is separate from the machine, making it harder for hackers and infiltrators to mess with your data. That’s not to say that software encryption is any bad, but better than no encryption.
All I’m saying is that software encrypting programs suffer frequent attacks from hackers.
Hence, the need to keep updated with the latest program to avoid falling victim, something hardware-encrypted drives tackle by offering security measures such as self-destruction in the case of infiltration.
Several software encryption tools can help you in securing your flash drive from prying eyes.
If you are running the latest version of windows on your computer, chances are you have Bitlocker pre-installed. Bitlocker is a security tool developed by Microsoft and comes free of charge with windows.
However, you can install other free and paid programs on your computer to protect your USB drive.
As much as these programs are susceptible to attacks, the developers are always trying their best to keep them updated and add more virus detection tools to their respective databases to combat the security concern.
Below are some programs I’ve found to do better jobs at securing USB drives;
Gilisoft secures your flash drive by splitting it into two parts, a secure one and a non-secure one(visible one).
The best thing about this software is that it supports old versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista while still offering security updates to keep the malware database updated.
The secured section of the USB drive can store any file or folder, while the visible part gets used as usual without interfering with the encrypted data.
Securstick does not require administrator rights and works without being installed on your computer.
All you need to do is launch the .exe program from your flash drive, which will, in turn, open the command prompt and launch the browser. You will need to create a password and save your settings as you enter the safe zone of the flash drive.
Just copy your files to the encrypted section known as the safe zone, and your files get protected! To access the files, you’ll have to enter the password you created in the secured partition once you tap on it.
VeraCrypt is another portable program that runs directly from the flash drive.
The program uses different encryption algorithms to protect your data, such as Serpent, Two Fish, and AES 256-BIT, which fixes many security programs’ vulnerabilities we’ve experienced in the past.
The software is entirely free if you’ll use it on a flash drive that’s 2GB and below. Just plug in the USB stick, launch the VeraCrypt wizard, and create encrypted volumes on the USB drive.
Like the programs mentioned above, the ENC DataVault software is fully portable and supported by Windows and Mac computers.
The program is not free to use but offers a 14-day free trial which can help you gauge its capabilities. You can opt to use the full version installed on your computer and comes with more robust features, but the portable one still gets the job done.
The cool thing is that the tool works with USB sticks and can also secure your cloud storage account.
USB Secure will protect your flash drive using essential encryption technologies.
You can access your files through a virtual drive once the program is installed on the USB drive using any computer or unlock it without running the software. The trial version offers you three free trials.
What I love about this particular program is that it has a feature to save your contacts to the drive so that if you lose it and somebody finds it, they’ll be able to reach out to you once they’ve plugged the drive into their computers.
The Rohos Mini drive creates two partitions on your USB drive, a visible and a secure one.
You can access your files through any computer by storing the Rohos disk browser tool in the visible partition. The program can password-protect USB drives with storage up to 8GB, which is somehow a limitation. Regardless of the restrictions, the mini tool is light yet powerful to protect any external devices attached to your computer.
If you’ve come this far reading, you already understand how you can protect your flash drive.
However, some solutions, such as hardware encrypted drives and specific software, are not free. So how do you do it for free? Well, my best advice would be to use the free available security tools for encrypting/decrypting data on a USB drive.
Some of the most popular programs that offer fully-featured versions for free include;
- Bitlocker To Go
- Rohos MiniDrive Tool
- USB safeguard free
- Kakasoft USB security
- Free USB security
Most of these programs are entirely free to use, while others offer limited trial versions that are as good as the paid ones.
The process to password-protect your drive will vary from program to program, but an easy one to follow. You can just follow the instructions provided by the vendor of the software you’ve downloaded, and you’ll be good to go.
If you are a mac user, you don’t need a third-party program to encrypt data on your flash drive. You will first have to format the flash using the HFS+ file system, a format created by Apple.
Your data will get deleted on the flash drive and so, make sure you’ve backed up anything important before formatting the drive. Once the flash has formatted, then proceed to the following steps to password-protect your USB drive.
- Press the command+space key to enter the Disk utility
- Select your drive from the left sidebar
- Tap on the Mac Os Extended (Journaled) file format and click Erase
- Now, simply right click the drive in finder, tap on encrypt, and set a password for the drive
Most of us have used USB drives to carry around critical information or other non-crucial files such as music or videos. However, with such small devices, one can lose it, exposing their data to strangers whom no one is aware of their intentions.
Therefore, it’s highly advisable to always encrypt essential files on a flash drive to avoid leaking data to unauthorized personnel.