Encrypted flash drives are very James Bond, especially the ones with the cool keypad that practically shouts, “There’s some serious business going on here!” But do you need one? If you ever transport any data more important than a generic sales presentation, (“Here’s what Whingy Widgets does for you!”) then yes, yes you do. Here’s why:
We already know that a startling variety of people will pick up a random flash drive they find lying around and plug it into their laptops. What if you lose the flash drive that contains important company financial data, identifiable customer or patient information, or personal photos that are NSFW? What if you’re participating in a big conference or trade show, and your competition isn’t above stealing your drive? Whether your drive is read by a curious stranger or an industrial spy, you and your company could be in big trouble.
So encryption it is! But what should I look for?
There are two broad categories of encrypted flash drives: Those that are unlocked via software, and those that are unlocked via the aforementioned keypad. The advantages of the software-administered drives is that they are less expensive, and recent reviews describe them as faster than keypad drives. Their disadvantage is the limited number of places you can use them. Some may only work with Windows, or only OS X, although most should cover both. (Linux users may have a harder time finding a software option.) And, obviously, software-administered drives will only work with desktops and laptops. Keypad flash drives, on the other hand, work with all operating systems and a wide variety of devices, including tablets, car stereos, media players, televisions, digital media adapters, game consoles and printers.
Either kind of encrypted flash drive should become inoperable when tampered with. Here’s how to tell if the drive you’re considering has this feature: Look for the specific phrase “FIPS 140-2 Level Three Certified.” FIPS stands for Federal Information Processing Standards. 140-2 is the current standard for cryptography modules that include both hardware and software components. Level Three is the level of security that is appropriate for nearly all government and business use. (There’s a Level Four, which certifies that the device will withstand extremely high temperatures and voltages, but considering the cost, Level Four isn’t worth the money for most businesses.) If you don’t see the specific phrase “FIPS 140-2 Level Three Certified” — for example, if you just see “FIPS” — the manufacturer is trying to pull a fast one.
Okay, I have a general idea of what I want in an encrypted flash drive. In fact, I want one for every team member. But I still don’t know, specifically, what to choose. And they have to be “administered.” How do I do that?
Call your managed IT service provider. They can advise you about encrypted flash drives, encrypted email, encrypted backup devices, encrypted cloud services…. you get the idea. And they can install, administer and monitor them, too, so all you have to do is look cool with your James Bond gear.
Dateline: Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Author: CMIT Solutions of Gilbert and Mesa