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Encrypted Flash Drive: Why You Need One and What Are Your Options

Published: October 13th, 2017

Encrypted flash drives offer a convenient way to carry digital information. What are your options if you don’t want to carry one? 

A small portable storage device that fits your pocket and budget is surely a treat. But what about security threats? How would you ensure the data is safe? These are a few critical questions that you should answer before you decide to carry sensitive information on the flash drives. One good (not great!) way to safeguard your data is to use an encrypted flash drive.

Are encrypted Flash Drives safe?

The reason why use of an encrypted flash drive (also called encrypted USB drive) is not a really great security measure is that no single measure is enough to prevent increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks.

In this article, you will learn the risks of non-encrypted drives, how you can encrypt a drive and what are the other security alternatives are available.

An Encrypted Flash Drive is a Safer Data Storage Option for Any Business

Encryption renders the data readable only to those persons who have an access to the enryption key. Meaning, when you encrypt a flash drive, even if some unauthorized persons get it, they will (probably) not be able to make sense of the information stored therein.

A number of encrypted flash drives currently available offer great speed and enhanced security. Choosing the best encrypted flash drive is surely going to take some serious effort. The differentiators between the best encrypted flash drive and an “average” encrypted device are:

  • Level of FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards Publication) certification.
  • Performance (Please note that performance and security may not go together)
  • Manageability.
  • Extra features such as inactivity lock, water resistance, and panic mode.

The Risks of Non-encrypted Drives: What Do They Mean to Your Business?

If you are using non-encrypted flash drives, then you have almost opened Pandora’s Box. The risks of non-encrypted drives leave your business open to a number of security threats and potential penalties.

From a regulatory perspective, you may be liable for breach and data-loss penalties. For example, the HIPAA law requires electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) to be protected to a level that satisfies certain security guidelines during storage and transmission. Failing to comply with regulatory requirements will cost your business if that flash drive should be lost of stolen. On the other hand, disk encryption allows you to stay in the “safe harbor”, a provision where you don’t have to report a breach even if you lose your data.

From a business point of view, data loss projects an irresponsible public image of your business, which in the long run can result in loss of the clients. You must have heard the reports that nearly two-thirds of SMBs close down after the data breach!

Difference between the Devices with Built-in Encryption and Those without

If you are using a drive with built-in encryption, you don’t have to use a third-party app or an encryption software to encrypt the data. These drives encrypt and decrypt the data through a dedicated chip that’s inside the drive. The most notable benefit is that the drives themselves store the encryption software, rather than on the operating system, so it is more natural to always use encryption.

Alternatively, you may use a device without native encryption and supply your own  encryption software. Different operating systems require different software. For example, Windows has a built-in feature called BitLocker (in professional versions of Windows) and Apple OS/X uses FileVault. Similarly, non-commercial freeware applications like TrueCrypt (now VeraCrypt) work on both Windows and OS/X and also on Linux.

When you think of encrypting your “normal” flash drive, make sure to use appropriate encryption software.

Alternatives to encrypted flash drives

What If You Don’t Want to Use Encrypted Flash Drive?

You have a choice when you don’t want to encrypt the entire drive. File encryption, also called document encryption, allows you to encrypt individual files. The choice depends on you and the circumstances. An encrypted flash drive offers better protection in the case of loss or theft of the device.  File encryption may be more beneficial if you consider the data safety when you are emailing a sensitive information. File encryption offers portability (i.e. for emailing and encrypted data transfer) that is not available or relevant when considering the native flash drive encryption. This is what you don’t get with an encrypted USB drive. Another option, folder encryption, encrypts only that information which you have stored in a particular folder or a directory.

What are the Alternatives to USB Drives?

No worries, there are options that might be even better or safer. Consider the following choices when you have finally decided not to use a flash drive.

  • Online File Storage. An outsourced, online file storage system that is HIPAA compliant is a great alternative if you are not interested in carrying a flash drive with you. LuxSci WebAide Documents is HIPAA-compliant and offers superior solutions to online data storage.
  • Email. You can use email folders to store critical data as long as the service is provided by a HIPAA compliant provider.
  • EMR. Install an EMR/PM system (electronic medical record/practice management) to handle patient data.
  • Local File Storage. With this option, you can store the data on a server that’s within your own office network. However, such practice requires a dedicated staff with advanced IT skills. Ready to invest more time and money?

For SMBs, the first two options – outsourced email or file storage – are the most applicable as they don’t require a huge sum of money. Also, you have to worry very little about the HIPAA compliance and the problems with non-compliance, as you are outsourcing much of your risk related to file storage.

Want to Know More?

To know more about the encrypted flash drive and its alternatives that best suit your business needs, talk to the experts.  Sign up for a free consultation. Click here.

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