Instructables

Encrypting a USB Drive

Picture of Encrypting a USB Drive
I will be walking you through the steps needed to encrypt a USB drive using the free encryption tool TrueCrypt. In this instructable, I will be using a Windows XP system as an example, but TrueCrypt will also run on Linux and OS X.
 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
For this instructable, you will need the following:

a USB drive
a PC running Windows 2000, XP, or Vista
a copy of TrueCrypt 5.0, which can be downloaded from here

Step 2: Format the USB Drive

In this example, we will be using an 8 Gb USB drive. If you are using a large USB drive and intend to create an encrypted volume that is larger than 4 Gb, you will need to format the drive with NTFS, as Fat32 cannot support files larger than 4 Gb.

In order to format a removable drive as NTFS, we will need to tweak the settings slightly:

1. Right click on My Computer on the Desktop and choose properties
2. Click on the Hardware Tab
3. Click on the Device Manager Button
4. Click the + symbol next to Disk Drives
5. Select your USB drive
6. Right click and choose properties
7. Click the Policies tab
8. Click the Optimize for performance radio button
9. Click OK and close the Device Manager window
10. Click OK on the System Properties window

Now we will format the drive:
WARNING: Formatting the drive will destroy any data on it (duh)

1. Double click My Computer on the Desktop
2. Select your USB drive
3. Right click and choose Format
4. In the dropdown box under File System, choose NTFS
5. Under Format Options, check the Quick Format checkbox
6. Click the Start button
7. Click OK on the warning dialog
8. Click OK on the Format Complete dialog
9. Click Close on the Format window

Step 3: Install TrueCrypt on the PC

Picture of Install TrueCrypt on the PC
Run the installer for TrueCrypt that you downloaded in step 1. Unless you have a reason to change them for your machine, the default settings for the install will work just fine.
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Try an IronKey instead.

http://www.ironkey.com.

Using truecrypt traveller is cool, but having a the built-in tor client and browser, as well as having a tamper-proof device is better.
Well,If you got data you never want to be leaked,Like Windows 7 Corporate edition,You may want to put it there.
Sure,You gotta love A super encrypted 4MB flash drive,Well,Thats the size that you can afford,Or anyone for that matter.
rockiesjason (author)  Trent The Thief6 years ago
Gah. Worse and worse. If you enter the wrong password 10 times or "tamper" with the case it self destructs (not sure exactly what this means). I can't have my portable storage bursting into flames every time I set my bag down too hard.
That means your pendrive gets formatted. The sole reason I removed it when I got it from the factory in my pendrive. Seriously, if someone else wants to format, he knows how to.
you know,You can un-format drives,But i think that is with magnetic storage only
No, it actually self destructs. Boom. The memory chip inside jettisons away from the board, disconnecting itself and deleting your files forever.
Lol?
No man, I'm completely serious. There's also a transmitter in there which informs the company if the self destruct mechanism doesn't work, summoning an Iron Key employee to your house to beat you and the flash drive with a mallet. Then he takes your cash and pets. I'm still recovering from the incident.
XP, the next thing I hear is, them sending you a cheeze cake because you sued them for illegally kissing you just because you were able to survive when your pendrive selfdistructed.
rockiesjason (author)  Trent The Thief6 years ago
That does look interesting. I've not used one, but be cautious with it, as it may not be the magic bullet that you think it is. I know some of the other hardware crypto USB devices have turned out to have very thin and easily crackable implementations. Also tor is not the fully anonymous solution that it's often advertised to be. Additionally, it's wicked expensive. For the cost of their 8gb model, you could go buy TWO 32gb flash drives and apply your own security and apps. However, as I said, I've not used one. It COULD be the greatest thing since sliced spam.
Hi Rockie, I can absolutely vouch for their ruggedness. Mine has been through the washer/dryer numerous times. The outer case looks like crap, but it functions flawlessly. It is expensive. That is true. However, it is alway proof against bruteforce attacks. The encrypted partition can not be extracted for attack in a hostile computer. A physical attack guarantees that the next time it is powered on that the encrypting hardware that connects to the internal memory fries. Regarding TOR, yes, it isn't absolute proof against attack, but if things are really that serious, one is well and truly hosed and the best thing to do is stay in crowded places :-) It's a convenience factor. Having a built-in firefox and tor client makes it relatively simple to browse from anywhere leaving no tracks on the host computer and serves well for a secure email check. NOTE: LINUX VERSION IS COMING!!!!!
I used to have an Iron Key, but it got too small when I started making videos. Then in the middle of all this forum reading I thought, why the heck would anyone need a TOR encryption and secure web browsing, ect. if all they're using it for is videos or schools files. I mean I can see it if you have important work files (which I had some of) or you were hacking the schools network (which I have done, and now I'm good friends with the tech guy... but thats a different story) but in many cases it wasn't really that useful. But thats just a really long random thought.
Oh, sure. It's not going to be useful for anyone with a need for high-performance external storage. It's intended to hold and maintain a number of files in complete security. The onboard browser and TOR are nice if you are using a public terminal and would like to have a bit more privacy that the local browser provides. I keep quite a bit of private data on mine. I need to have the data on hand and I sure don't want to lose it to a third-party if I drop the drive someplace. I doubt that I'd buy a second one. The 4GB is plenty for what I need.
Get it if you want it (though I have to say the firefox secure browsing is helpul sometimes) anyway for your purpose I would recomment it
mweston mweston5 years ago
Sry, didn't check for spelling - that would be helpful and recommend :-P
mweston mweston5 years ago
Anyway, if you want one, they're great - rugged and file transfer is pretty good. The only reason to get another one is if it was a present or something
rockiesjason (author)  Trent The Thief6 years ago
Well cool then. Maybe if they get the Linux version out and get the size up some, I'll give it a shot.
I'm hoping the new SW will be both versions on one stick. I went with the 4GB version. I feel a lot better knowing that any data I need to carry is safe.
I heard that when that you try to open an iornkey it releases a sort of chemical that fries the flash chips, or something
rockiesjason (author)  Trent The Thief6 years ago
After a brief bit of research, it also appears that Ironkey is windows only. Meh.
Cartuner555 years ago
can you access your files on a computer without TrueCrypt?
No,But trueCrypt appears to be on the drive
ReCreate5 years ago
Hey,An 8 GB flash drive,How unusuall,Why is it so large?
I got a 16GB,And it is tiny,Like the size of a bluetooth dongle
Berkin5 years ago
Neat!
sideways6 years ago
Recently I read something about a possible weakness of encrypted data on flash drives. The idea was that, because of the way flash drives spread the data writes around, it might be possible for stray data to stay stored in flash even after unmounting.

This is because flash drives avoid writing to the same data areas all the time, instead spreading it around to avoid wearing out one particular portion of the memory. Of course, this might only be an issue if one writes any new data to the flash drive before it's unmounted.

A workaround might be using an eraser program *after* unmounting, but before removing the drive from the pc. The eraser program would have to be stored on the unencrypted portion of the drive, of course.

Ideas, anyone?
Truecrypt NEVER writes unencrypted data to the disk. It encrypts and decrypts data on the fly. When you save a word document to a TrueCrypt volume, it is encrypted before it ever gets to the drive.
rockiesjason (author)  sideways6 years ago
Yes, this is called wear leveling. Unfortunately, using one of the utilities that is intended to erase the free space on a disk will just make the problem worse on a flash drive and will actually spread more copies of the files (or partial files) around on the drive. You are correct that this is only a problem with data written to the drive before then encrypted partition was created and for files in any unencrypted section of the drive that might be present. In my opinion (YMMV), if the encrypted volume takes up the majority of the space on the drive and is used relatively frequently, the wear leveling process should overwrite most of the bits containing plaintext files or fragments relatively quickly. This would be something worth experimenting a bit on :)
the best thing to do to avoid wear leveling weaknesses would be to buy a brand new flashdrive and encrypt it before you add any files.
rockiesjason (author)  iman6 years ago
Exactly so.
Zlwilly5 years ago
Truecrypt all the way for me. I was so excited when I first found it. Finally, I thought, encryption I can really use. Good stuff!
raykholo6 years ago
the fact that you can only access the files on a computer where truecrypt is installed can be a problem. it would help me though, and i was been using it for a while, even before i read this instructable if its not on a flash drive, you can just integrate the space into any random file.
rockiesjason (author)  raykholo6 years ago
Nope, that's not the case. Read through the instructable again carefully.
A.C.E.6 years ago
some kid was selling porn on his psp to other people at my school so now all of ur electronical devices are being taken and checked for pornografical pics and vids.. i bet this would piss the teachers off so bad :D
rockiesjason (author)  A.C.E.6 years ago
If you were careful, they'd never find it.
where u get that drive? it cool.
rockiesjason (author)  mettaurlover6 years ago
From Ebay, iirc. It actually not a flash drive, its a microdrive. Pretty neat other than having to be somewhat more careful with it. Also the filp out USB connector is a little fragile.
jridley6 years ago
All of these "but it only works if truecrypt is installed on every machine" comments are uninformed, mostly. You need only install TC in traveler mode on the USB drive. Traveler mode is an EXE only TC program, which can be run on any machine without installing. Then you can run TC from the drive (in the unencrypted part) and mount your encrypted volume that way. I say "mostly" wrong because it is true that you need to be a priviledged user to run TC from the USB drive, but almost all Windows boxes in the world default to that mode anyway. Personally I've been able to mount TC volumes with the Traveler EXE on my USB drive on every machine I've ever walked up to, including library computers. The only alternative to something like TC traveler mode would be hardware encryption, and most hardware encrypted USB drives have, in recent months, proven to be ridiculously weak. One just had a chip that XORed data, I think, and another allowed override by simply shorting out a wire inside. Thumb drives that come with "encryption" are almost always just proprietary software similar to TC - given that, they're even less portable than TC, and proprietary encryption software should never be trusted - as often as not it's eventually discovered to have been written by someone with no idea what they're doing. Even when I buy an "encrypted" hard drive, first thing I do is erase their software and install TrueCrypt.
kfrench6 years ago
Isn't there another software option?? TrueCrypt is worthless for a main reason why people use USBs -- portability (i.e., the fear of losing the USB in transit). TrueCrypt cripples a USB's portability because the you cannot decrypt the USB unless the target computer has TrueCrypt installed, right? In essence, to effectively use TrueCrypt you must have sufficient privileges to install TrueCrypt on every machine you ever plug the USB into otherwise you cannot access data on the USB. Robust and practical USB encryption should enable you to access encrypted USB content from any computer, regardless of what programs are installed on the computer. For example, I have sensitive info on the USB. I want to encrypt the USB's contents and take the USB for use of the USB's content at another location/computer. If I use TrueCrypt, I have to carry my laptop with me because the computer I am using at the other location does not have TrueCypt and I cannot install TruCrypt on the other computer (e.g., I lack sufficiant rights on my work computer). I am not worried about the content of the USB being exposed on the computers (e.g., carrying work files to and from home); I am, however, worried about losing the USB in transit between home and work. The complete lack of portability effectively makes TrueCrypt worthless for USBs. Hardware based encryption seems like the only practical encryption for USBs. Please correct me if I am wrong. Thanks.
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