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Securing your USB drive data using Truecrypt

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Securing your USB drive data using Truecrypt.

USB drives can be a great portable data storage solution. Small enough to go onto a key-ring, or even inside a wallet. They grant the ability to access particular files or applications, wherever you happen to be, without having to put your data into someone else’s possession or storing it “in the cloud”.

As handy as USB drives are, they also tend to have a knack for being fairly easy to lose (Or perhaps even stolen). Let’s say you happen to have important and/or sensitive data stored on yours. This could be any variety of data you wouldn't want falling into the wrong hands – financial documents, travel itineraries, projects/assignments you’re working on, private personally identifiable information, the list is endless.

You might be thinking this scenario could easily be prevented by not storing such data on a USB drive. Sure, that’s true, however sometimes that isn’t practical when you want to be able to access such data on the go. There are of course “cloud” storage solutions for these situations, but do you trust these external parties with your sensitive data? In this blog post, I will outline through the steps of encrypting your USB drive data using TrueCrypt. By doing this, you can protect the data on your drive, so that in the event of loss or theft, the data cannot be accessed by prying eyes.

TrueCrypt is a free encryption application available for Windows, OSX, and Linux. TrueCrypt’s built-in Wizard is fairly straightforward. Each step contains a good explanation of everything as you go, so I will only touch on the basic steps.

• Download and install TrueCrypt. http://www.truecrypt.org/downloads

• TrueCrypt has a variety of options, such as encrypting the entire drive, creating hidden volumes, or creating encrypted containers. In this post we’ll be looking at creating encrypted containers. An encrypted container is essentially a virtual encrypted drive, within what appears as a single file.

• Launch TrueCrypt. Go to Tools > Volume Creation Wizard.

• Select the option “Create an encrypted file container”.

• Click Next, and select “Standard TrueCrypt volume”.

• At the “Volume Location” screen, set the destination to a new/non-existing file on your flash drive, and click Next.

• At the “Encryption Options” screen, leave everything as is, and click Next.

• At the “Volume Size” screen, specify the size of the container, and click Next.

• At the “Volume Password” screen, set a password. Please follow the instructions on screen here in regards to setting a good password, this is very important. Click Next.

• Now that the TrueCrypt container has been created, in the main menu of TrueCrypt, click “Select File”, and select the container you’ve created. Now click “Mount”.

• You will be asked for a password to mount the container. This is the password you specified earlier. Enter in the password, and click OK. You will notice that Windows (or OSX if you’re using OSX) will suddenly display a new drive, as though you’ve plugged in another USB stick. This is basically the inside of TrueCrypt container. Move any data you want to be encrypted, into this drive. When you disconnect the USB drive, and insert it into another computer, you will only see the encrypted container file. To access the contents within the container, you would need to mount the file using TrueCrypt, and the password you specified.

• Please note that this means you will need TrueCrypt installed on any computers where you’re interested in accessing the files inside the encrypted container. If you will be using a computer where you do not have the appropriate permissions to install applications, then you will need to look at running TrueCrypt in “Portable Mode”. In-depth information on this process can be found here - http://www.truecrypt.org/docs/truecrypt-portable

At this stage you’ve successfully secured the sensitive data on your USB drive. If your drive was to fall into the wrong hands, the user would need the password for your TrueCrypt container to access the protected data. In addition to this, the user would need to know that you are even using a TrueCrypt container. The containers can have any extension you choose, they do not expose the fact that they are TrueCrypt containers. If you wanted, you could set the extension to something like .AVI – In this case the user would simply assume the file is a video, which of course will not work when they try to view it. So there you have it. If you store sensitive data on your USB drive, consider using TrueCrypt!

For more information visit - http://www.truecrypt.org/docs/
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