How can we secure our files?

by on June 23rd, 2011

With more and more advancements in technology, faster and easier ways to store information, one chapter still falls behind, mainly security.

With the ever increasing capacity size and speed of Flash-based portable (pen) drives, they are in a continuous rise in demand, their USB port support making them one of the most useful gadgets of all time. However, protecting such data on the drives has often proven somewhat difficult.

Fortunately, there are solutions to helping us protect our data, some good, some bad, some complicated, some simple.

A simple solution would be using the “hide” option from Windows (or the Terminal in Mac OS), making these files or folders theoretically invisible. However, this technique is unfortunately doomed to fail, due to Windows’ “See hidden files and folder” option as well as the “ShowallFiles 1” command on Mac. As mentioned before, this uncomplicated method may well deter young snoopers, but anyone that is seriously looking to find something and has used a computer before will easily find such files.

Another relatively simple, but somewhat time consuming approach would be the reasonable creation of password-protected archives. The problems with this technique would be that the user would waste more time archiving and extracting these files, hindering progress. Moreover, anyone willing to break a RAR password can find plenty programs to do so.

Requiring slightly more computer perceptiveness, a good technique would be removing or changing the file’s extension. While this may sometimes pose risk to the file’s integrity, as well as requiring the user to allow the OS to show extensions in filenames (Windows hides extensions for known filetypes by  default), changing “importantsheet.xlsx” to “239872wdjaa.dll” or any other extension will provide a strong security, as the intruder would have to distinguish which files are real or not, and what real extensions they had. Adding a converted .doc in a folder full of random .jpg’s will conceal it perfectly.

A less mind-boggling technique would be acquiring a security specialized flash drive. The special would cost a pretty penny, but it would restrict access to anyone missing its specialized dedicated software.

The most commonly used method, however, would be the one through free software, such as TrueCrypt. This program will secure a portion of the stick, effectively emulating a partition with the desired size.

Based on its 256 bits AES algorithm, this software’s  encryption will ensure a practically dictionary-attack proof protection, thus keeping almost everyone interested in reaching personal or classified data.

However, regardless of the method we use to protect our drives, wouldn’t it be better to just keep it out of sight?