THE RKGBLOG

Keeping Key Files Close At Hand: Encrypting A USB Thumb Drive

off-topic: not an online marketing post

I travel a bit for work and with family. Regardless of where I am, there are four or so key files I want to have close at hand:

  • my MS Outlook PST file (my mail, contacts, calendar, tasks)
  • an Excel spreadsheet of passwords for home and work
  • my private key for OpenSSH
  • my VPN keys, to reach servers at work behind the firewall

A one gig USB thumb drive is a great solution, but that’s waaaaay too much private information to have dangling on my keychain. The solution? Encrypt the thumb drive. And for over a year, I’ve been using DriveCrypt by SecurStar to do just that.

DriveCrypt is a great product. You allocate a chunk of disk space to it and it creates an encrypted volume. To unlock the volume, you enter four (count ‘em, four) passwords, and the volume shows up on the filesystem as a full-featured Windows drive. You can drag and drop files to it, create subfolders on it, run applications from it, whatever.

I’ve beaten on this software pretty hard — doing bad things to it you shouldn’t do like pulling out the thumb drive in the middle of a disk write — and to date it hasn’t hiccuped ever. Totally reliable software. And, according to the product literature, the encryption is pretty darn secure, too.

As this encrypted volume contains the master copy of my email, I back it up each morning and evening at home and at work. To do that, I click on a little DOS batch file to copy the thumbdrive to a dated directory on the local hard drive. (The batch file, along with openSSH and putty, stay on the thumb drive, but outside the encrypted volume.)


REM backup script: copy e:/ to c:/ into a daily folder
SET NOW=%DATE%
SET Y=%NOW:~10,4%
SET D=%NOW:~7,2%
SET M=%NOW:~4,2%
SET YMD=%Y%%M%%D%
SET DIR=c:backup%YMD%
rmdir /s /q %DIR%
mkdir %DIR%
xcopy e: %dir% /Y /E /EXCLUDE:skipfiles.txt

If you’re moving around alot and want to keep key files at hand, check out DriveCrypt.

In this age of pay-for-post endorsements, I’ll note this review was both unsolicited and unpaid.

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  • Alan Rimm-Kaufman
    Alan Rimm-Kaufman founded the Rimm-Kaufman Group...
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