Staying Safe with USB Storage

When considering any kind of USB storage, it is worth remembering that encryption is not just required (if you are storing personal data) but a pretty good idea everywhere. If you lose a USB memory stick or a larger USB disk, it is better to know that the data is encrypted without trying to remember what kind of data was on that stick and whether it was encrypted or not.

As a personal preference, I have chosen to go with hardware encrypted storage devices. One is a 16Gbyte USB memory stick :-

And the other is an enclosure for installing old laptop drives :-


(Both pictures are links to the relevant Amazon product page; not that this is an endorsement of Amazon!)

In both cases, you have to enter a PIN before you can use the storage. This sounds a bit inconvenient compared to a normal USB memory stick; and it is.

There’s no getting away from the fact that using encrypted storage is just a little bit less convenient than ordinary storage.

But it is safer. There is no risk you’ll need to explain to someone why they are having to write a report to the Information Commissioner, and there is no risk that you’ll wonder what someone will do with your personal data. Can you really be sure there is no data from work on any one of your USB memory sticks? And can you really be sure there is no personal data from work on one of your USB memory sticks?

As for the benefits of hardware encryption, there are two main ones :-

  1. It works everywhere; you do not have to worry about whether the encryption software works on the random old laptop a relative uses. Even if they are really weird and use Linux.
  2. It’s not optional. With most encryption software, the USB memory stick works without the encryption leading to the situation where it’s tempting (especially if you are in a hurry) to not bother with the encryption “just this once”.

In terms of actual usage, the memory stick I’ve indicated has been in use long enough that the fancy black plastic case it comes in has become all shiny as the “black” has worn off. And it still works as well as it did on the first day, and the keypad buttons are still functional.

The Zalman laptop drive case is still a bit new, but does still work fine.

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