CipherUSB

Looking for a simple reliable solution to secure the information stored in your Flash drive, Flash media, USB hard drive, or optical media? The CipherUSB may just be the answer. I have two of these devices and rely upon them to protect a lot of my information.

Your data and your backups should always be encrypted, wherever you store them. Keep in mind that a lot of identity theft and data theft occurs when the thief is personally acquainted with the victim; often the two are even related. Simply keeping a backup copy in your home does not guarantee security from friends and family members who may have access to your computer. Security of laptop computers is even more important since laptops are easily lost or stolen.

A device from Addonics adds heavy-duty encryption security to any plug-in USB disk drive at a modest price. It is also super simple to use.

The CipherUSB encrypts any storage device that connects via USB. It works with flash drives, external hard drives, or CD/DVD/Blu-Ray drives, as long as they plug in via a USB port. This is a “pass through” adapter, which simply means that you plug one end of the adapter into your computer’s USB port and attach your storage drive to the other end of the adapter. The adapter itself is about the same size as a flash drive.

Click on the above image to view a larger version.

You can use CipherUSB with any operating system: Windows, Macintosh, Linux, UNIX, or whatever you have. However, setting the password requires Windows, which strikes me as a rather silly requirement for a device that is supposed to work with any operating system. However, the password only needs to be set once; so, you could use a borrowed Windows computer or one at the office. Once you set the password, the only time you will ever need it again is if the CipherUSB is lost and you have to replace it with a new CipherUSB unit.

What if the CipherUSB adapter is lost or damaged? You can always purchase another CipherUSB adapter and set it with the same recovery password as you used in your old CipherUSB adapter.

NOTE: Keep in mind this solution offers absolute security for your data. There is no back door if you do not remember your recovery password. It is important that you keep your recovery password or an extra CipherUSB somewhere safe in case of a disaster. If you ever lose the password, you also lose all the data stored on the encrypted drive!

Once configured, the CipherUSB simply runs forever and ever. It doesn’t have batteries. Instead, it is powered by the computer’s USB port. Anything stored on the plug-in external hard drive or flash drive that is connected to the CipherUSB adapter is encrypted. If anyone unplugs that drive and takes it elsewhere, the data stored will be unreadable without the CipherUSB adapter and its password.

Of course, when the drive is plugged into the CipherUSB adapter, the information is readable. You won’t want to leave your computer running while it is unattended since a friend, family member, or co-worker could sit at your computer and access everything. Luckily, all of today’s operating systems already have built-in timers that will lock the computer after a predefined number of minutes of no keyboard activity. If you walk away for a few minutes, the computer will not allow anyone else to gain access without entry of a password. I would hope you are using a password that is not easily guessed by others. The combination of the CipherUSB adapter, a keyboard timer, and a strong password for gaining access to your computer will provide good protection of your data.

I would expect the CipherUSB adapter could be very popular in corporate settings where company-confidential information is kept on personal computers, especially for salespeople and technicians who travel frequently. I also can envision everyone in departments such as finance, human resources, and research & development using CipherUSB adapters.

Another use might be protection of backed up data while in transit. For instance, you might backup your data on the office PC to a flash drive at the end of the day, take the flash drive home with you in pocket or purse, and then restore the data to a computer at home for backup purposes. If you use CipherUSB adapters on both the home and office computers (with identical passwords), your sensitive information is protected while you commute. For the best security, you should leave the CipherUSB adapters at home and at the office. If your flash drive is lost or stolen during your commute, no one can access your sensitive information.

The CipherUSB adapter does not provide any protection for online backups stored on an Internet (cloud) -based backup service. Of course, all of the worthwhile online backup services already offer heavy duty encryption of your data before it leaves your computer, so you don’t need additional encryption to protect data that is already encrypted. In short, the CipherUSB isn’t needed for online backups, only when backing up data to a local hardware device: a flash drive, hard drive, or CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive.

One word of caution: the CipherUSB adapter does not protect data already on your plug-in drive. When you use the CipherUSB for the first time, you enter the new password and then you reformat the entire external drive as an encrypted drive. In other words, this will destroy any information already stored on that drive. I would only use the CipherUSB on a new plug-in drive or on a drive that doesn’t contain any information I wish to save.

How important is the safety of your information? If you care about security at all, make multiple backups and store them in multiple locations to protect against data loss. How important is the security of your data if it falls into the wrong hands? The CipherUSB adapter can provide heavy-duty encryption of data stored on flash drives, USB hard drives, or CD/DVD/Blu-ray disks.

Not bad for a retail price of $29.95!

To learn more about the Addonics CipherUSB adapter, go to the Addonics web site at http://www.addonics.com/products/cipherusb.php. This encryption device can be purchased from the Addonics online store at http://www.shopaddonics.com/Itemdesc.asp?ic=CA256USB&eq=&Tp= as well as from many retailers.

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