We did what most IT managers and users would do and asked some of the top vendors for their most secure USB flash drives. All but one of these products use some form of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption, either 128-bit or 256-bit (according to experts, there's not much of a difference between 128-bit and 256-bit levels of AESencrypt usb drive for ordinary purposes, as neither has yet been broken).
There was some variation in the implementation of the encryption on these drives -- some use AES keys derived from a user's password, while others use encryption keys generated by a hardware-based random number generator. (For more information, see our sidebar About Encryption.)
Choosing the right encryption utility
There are too many encryption utilities out there to list them all. WinEncrypt, My Lockbox, EncryptOnClick are just a few. You'll probably see the free and open source solution, TrueCrypt, discussed the most. You might even remember our recent how-to series on this solution.
Unfortunately, TrueCrypt's portable mode still requires Administrator privileges on the computers you plug the USB drive into to kakasoft. Therefore, this utility isn't a candidate if you plan to use public workstations, or even your work PC. Isn't portability the whole idea behind thumb drives?
The solution we're going to discuss is called FreeOTFE, the latter short for On The Fly kakasoft. In addition to eliminating the need to install software on the computers you plug your drive into, it doesn't require admin rights. So your files will be protected and you'll be able to use the drive on any ol' computer—perfect!
Background of kakasoft
Having a server on the Internet nowadays is not so easy. Security is an important issue. So before we get started with complex setup of software we will sit down and create a safe area to where we can retract, drink a nice cup of coffee and feel and hopefully be really safe with our data.
Why do we need this? If not to protect any secret recipes of pumpkin pie from your great grandmother, it is very useful to know that one have a safe place to store different keys used for kakasoft. Or just to be able to brag about that you have a really secure encrypted vault for your data. We might not need that kind of security, but they do not know that. Being paranoid is not the target here, learning about encryption is. It will be really fun. Yrg'f trg fgnegrq!
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