Software and hardware encryption are two of the best ways to keep your data safe in USB drives. Read on to learn how you can make the most of these processes for your own storage devices.
In this article:
- What Is Encryption?
- Why Is Encryption Important?
- What Is Software Encryption?
- What Is Hardware Encryption?
- Hardware Encryption vs Software Encryption: Differences
- How Can You Keep Data Safe in USB Drives?
Keeping Your Data Safe | Everything You Need To Know About Hardware Encryption and Software Encryption
What Is Encryption?
Encryption is the best way to keep your data safe and involves translating data into a secret code.
To be able to access encrypted files, you’ll need access to a password or key of some sort. This password or key decrypts your data and translates it to plain text.
You can encrypt data in computers, smartphones, and even USB drives. For USB drives specifically, there are two ways to encrypt data:
- Hardware-based encryption
- Software-based encryption
Why Is Encryption Important?
We all want to keep our data safe. Unfortunately, these days, you can’t be too careful.
Your personal and business data can be abused in many ways, and encryption is a way to prevent this. Without encryption, USB drives are especially vulnerable.
USB drives are ubiquitous and many businesses rely on them to store, back-up, and transfer important data. Its size also allows for a convenient way to carry around or travel with all the data you need.
While the size of USB drives allows for ease of mobility, it also makes it easy to forget, misplace, or lose them. When this happens, it becomes at risk of someone else accessing the data it holds.
Once you encrypt your data, it will be very difficult for anyone to access its contents. They may have your physical USB drive, but they won’t be able to do anything with the data.
Otherwise, if your USB drive does get lost and you didn’t encrypt your data, anyone with a computer will be able to view and copy its contents.
What Is Software Encryption?
Software encryption is the process of safeguarding your data using software. The software is installed in a host computer and encrypts and decrypts data.
The software provides the algorithm that essentially scrambles the data saved on the device and unscrambles them when access is granted.
In software encryption, your password is the key you need to access your data. Once the correct password is provided, files and data will be unlocked and decrypted.
Algorithm Definition: An algorithm is a set of rules that guides computers and processors. It tells them what to do with each input and which output it needs to produce.
What Is Hardware Encryption?
Hardware encryption is the process of safeguarding your data using a dedicated and separate processor. This processor takes care of authenticating access attempts, granting access, and encrypting/decrypting data.
While some hardware encryption processes still use passwords, it can also use biometrics such as fingerprints in place of a traditional password.
For USB drives, it’s more common for the separate processor to generate an encryption key using a random number generator. The processor will only generate the encryption key when the user provides their password.
Hardware Encryption vs Software Encryption: Differences
Both hardware and software encryption serves to protect your data, but they are different in a few important ways. Here are the key differences:
- Software Installation — Software encryption requires software installation in the host computer. Hardware encryption doesn’t require any software installation.
- Additional Hardware — Hardware encryption requires a separate dedicated processor. Software encryption doesn’t normally require any additional hardware.
- Slows Down Computer — Hardware encrypted devices don’t slow down the host computer because all of the encrypting happens within the separate processor. Software encryption may make computers slower because the software relies on the computer’s processing resources to run the encryption and, on top of that, it may also require software updates from time to time.
- How Much of the Device is Encrypted — Hardware encryption usually encrypts the entire drive. You can usually customize software encryption to encrypt only certain files if you don’t need everything encrypted.
- Security Issues — Software encryption is more susceptible to brute force attacks compared to hardware encryption. Once a computer is hacked, the hackers can keep resetting the password attempts counter to keep trying new passwords.
- Hardware encrypted devices are generally safer because all of the encrypting, along with the randomly generated numerical password, happens within the separate processor—making it more difficult for hackers to gain access. This is unlike software encryption, which is only as safe as the host computer.
- Data Access Upon Encryption Failure — It’s more difficult to access your data when the processor of hardware encrypted devices fail. There are usually more failsafe options or built-in recovery systems for software encryption.
- Cost — For smaller companies, software-based encryption may be more cost-effective. For medium or large companies, hardware encryption is more cost-effective because it doesn’t require additional software installation.
Both types of encryption have advantages and disadvantages. Consider your own needs when choosing between software and hardware encryption.
How Can You Keep Data Safe in USB Drives?
There are two ways to keep your data safe in USB drives:
- Install a software encryption program in your own computer and use the software to encrypt the data in your USB
- Purchase a USB drive that has a built-in hardware encryption processor
It’s best to purchase your USB from a manufacturer that can address all of your data safety concerns.
Encryption is essential to safeguard your personal and business data, especially when you’re storing it in USB drives.
The type of encryption you choose depends on your needs. If you’re thinking of securing your USB drive for personal use, then software encryption will probably be enough for your purpose.
On the other hand, hardware encryption may be better suited for larger scale companies and businesses. Keep these in mind the next time you purchase a USB drive. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
How do you keep your data safe in your USB drives? Let us know in the comments section.