Flash drives have replaced previous portable computer storage devices like the floppy disc and offer even greater capacity, durability, and accessibility to users. But due to their small size, flash drives are easy to leave behind or misplace, which can lead to others finding these devices and viewing their contents without your permission.
Purchasing Security Software/a Secure Flash Drive
You may secure your flash drive by doing one of two actions: (1) purchasing security software for your existing non-secure flash drive or (2) purchasing a secure flash drive. Unlike a non-secure flash drive, a secure flash drive offers built-in security capabilities, which range from password to fingerprint access.
If buying security software for an existing flash drive, make sure the software is compatible with your flash drive model.
Purchasing a Secure Flash Drive
Here are some things to consider when purchasing a secure flash drive:
- Platform compatibility: All secure drives are compatible with Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. Most secure drives are not compatible with older versions of Windows, such as 95, 98, and Me. Fewer drives are compatible with Apple Mac or Linux systems.
Setting up the secure zone: Secure drives allow you to divide the drive capacity into public and private partitions.
Be careful when adjusting between partitions — doing so sometimes requires that all data on the drive be deleted first, so backup everything.
Bundled security software: Sometimes the security software must be installed on each computer you use a secure flash drive with, which can be a hassle, but on others, the software may only need to reside on the drive.
Be careful to not erase your only copy of the security software when you divide the drive between secure and non-secure zones, as on some models a partition operation erases even that.
- Secure and non-secure zones: You usually cannot access both the secure and non-secure (unencrypted) partitions concurrently or easily flip between them. If you are "logged in" to the secure zone, you will see only the files in that area, and if you are "logged off" the non-secure zone, you will see only those in that area.
- Fingerprints vs. passwords: If you can't remember passwords, fingerprint models may be for you, but these drives are a bit more expensive. The long-term reliability of the fingerprint scanners used in such devices has not been established and are currently only available for Windows systems. 1
Secure Drive Models
There are a variety of secure models on the market. Unfortunately, some flash drives are more secure than others — that is, not all flash drives are created equal.
Here are a few secure flash drives that were voted the best by Computerworld.com.
- Corsair Flash Padlock: The Corsair Padlock is relatively slow and is not the most secure of those Computerworld reviewed, but its cross-platform capability is helpful if you're moving files among Windows, Linux, and Mac computers.
- IronKey Secure Flash Drive: According to Computerworld, "IronKey's numerous security features — hardware-based encryption, random password generator, two-factor authentication, secure Web browsing, and self-destruct mechanism — along with its longer-life, single-level cell NAND memory, put it over the top as the highest quality, most secure drive of the bunch." Unfortunately, this flash drive is the most expensive of all those tested, but with the increased security you can easily protect your private files.
- Corsair Survivor GT: Comparatively, Corsair Survivor's performance numbers are similar to IronKey's, and along with the SanDisk Cruzer Professional, it uses the least CPU cycles.
- Kingston Data Traveler Secure: When it comes to speed, such as saving files to the drive, the Kingston was 2.5 times faster than the Lexar JumpDrive Secure II-and that, along with a simpler interface, may by what you're looking for.
Securing a Flash Drive
Securing your flash drive-whether by means of a password or fingerprint-enables you to control who has access to its contents. Users with private information, such as social security numbers, account numbers, or even academic or professional documents stored on their flash drives should secure their storage devices. A password, fingerprint, or keypad ensures no one will be able to access the stored information unless he or she knows the password. Refer to the security software or your flash drive's user manual for specific security procedures.
Choosing a Password
To further secure the files on your flash drive, choose a strong password. See Password to view strong password guidelines and recommendations.