Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Flash Drives and TrueCrypt

More and more people in the humanitarian world, including security practitioners, are coming to rely on Flash Drives. Also known as Thumb Drives, Pen Drives, USB Drives or Flash Memory Drives, these small devices store from 128 Megabytes to several Gigabytes of data. The drives plug into a computer’s USB port and allow you to transfer or work on files wherever there is a computer.

If you use a flash drive, or are considering using one, a big question to ask yourself is what would happen if the drive was lost or stolen? Are there sensitive files or information that if ended up in the wrong hands could bring harm or loss to your organization, its staff or the people that you serve?

If you routinely carry sensitive data on your flash drive (or a laptop), consider keeping it encrypted. Encryption means scrambling the data so an unauthorized person can't access it. The data is protected with a password that only you know.

One of the better free encryption solutions for Windows and Linux computers is a program called TrueCrypt. TrueCrypt creates password-protected volumes (think of a volume like a folder). Any files that are copied or written to the volume are automatically encrypted. This is called "on-the-fly" encryption and is a fast and convenient way to keep sensitive files secure.

TrueCrypt is easy to install and set up, but to assist you more, here are two tutorials with step-by-step instructions for securing flash drives.

(PS – If you wear a flash drive around your neck, be sure it's on a cord or chain that will easily break away if someone grabs it or if it snags on something. This reduces the chances of you purposely or accidentally being choked. Safety first!)


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