It is nearly a weekly occurrence to hear of company secrets and customer data being lost/stolen from a company laptop or USB flash drive. This could so easily be avoided in the case of USB keys through simple USB password protection. This article looks at how applications and encryption chips could protect a firm’s information.
The first approach is to use a software solution to enforce users to enter a password when reading files off of the USB flash device. The applications (for example, True Crypt or Bitlocker To Go; which is provided with some Windows 7 installs) can be used on existing USB keys quite simply, securing existing data. The software algorithms can be complex enough to avoid hackers breaking the code, so long as the user is using a strong password.
However, the software is completely useless if the user fails to use the password protection (as may be the case with some employees) or a weak password is used that makes decrypting the contents not too difficult.
If you need to provide a higher level of security then there are dedicated USB keys with chips in them to encrypt all data whether a password is used or not. This also means that hackers analyzing the flash memory directly will only ever see encrypted files.
These hardware solutions provide additional USB password protection by adding intelligence to clear the keys memory if a password is incorrectly entered three times. The downside of the dedicated keys is that they cost a lot more than regular USB memory so may not be as cost effective (depending on the number of employees.
USB password protection can be simply applied or retro-fitted to a company’s data protection policy. If no policy exists, then users can protect their personal information, and the company’s data, using the solutions above.
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