Protect Sensitive Data on USB Drives and Memory Sticks if they are Lost or Stolen

by | Feb/17/2022

People sometimes lose or misplace USB memory sticks, SD Cards, External USB hard drives, and other external storage media. Help protect your data from prying eyes and cyber thieves by encrypting the drive.

On Macs and Windows, encrypting an external drive can be as simple as right-clicking on the external drive’s icon and selecting the encryption option.

Two golden rules:

1) Be sure your files are backed up elsewhere before encrypting a drive.

2) Be sure to save the recovery key in case you forget the password.

Encrypting individual files is helpful to protect your data, but attackers can still read the filenames and deduce information. One advantage to encrypting an entire external drive is bad actors cannot see the filenames when you encrypt an entire external drive or memory stick.

I intend to make you aware of the importance of encrypting external drives and not go into technical details. So, you’re welcome to skip the following information. If you encounter errors encrypting drives in the simple method above, there are many details. For example:

Windows: One way to encrypt drives is using BitLocker. If you have Windows Home edition instead of Pro, you cannot encrypt drives, but you can unlock and use encrypted drives. All editions of Windows support the “device encryption” feature.

Macs: You can use an encryption utility called Filevault2. Alternatively, you can encrypt drives when you format them. If you have a Mac with an Apple CPU, some users experience losing access to the data on the drive after encryption. Apple will fix that soon if they haven’t already.

Hopefully, you won’t encounter any issues when you encrypt your external drives and help protect the data from anyone who steals or discovers a misplaced drive.