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Sharing Data in an Unsecure World-Portable Encryption for Microsoft Windows 7

Created: 16 Dec 2009 • Updated: 05 Nov 2012
Shilpi Dey's picture
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These days you don’t need to wait for holiday sales to buy the tiniest, highest capacity USB thumb drive you can find. A 2GB USB drive sells for under $10 in the US, and works great to put family pictures, your favorite music (yes, the 80s were a good era) and oh yeah, the customer files you need to share with Bob at the audit firm. There’s only one problem: these drives tend to get lost easily, or as what often happens with most people, you just can’t remember where you put it. If that happens, you have now put out confidential company data (and possibly personal data) free for all to see, out into the world. This can very quickly turn into an organizational nightmare when it turns out that the drive was indeed lost, and now your organization has to inform investors, its customers, and just about everybody else about this loss. A look at the latest data breach headlines show that loss of USB drives and CDs/DVDs is unfortunately, still very much a reality. From the financial damage to the emotional damage data loss can cause, it’s no wonder Information Technology (IT) security officers lay awake at night wondering how to secure data that is entering, residing, and leaving USB drives and CDs/DVDs.

As you get ready with your Windows 7 upgrades, it is essential to think about your device and media protection strategy.

The good news is, with PGP Portable, you can instantly secure any removable device or optical media, and we mean any. No need to invest in costly encrypted USB drives with their own asset management consoles, and no need to worry about cross-platform issues with native Windows solutions.

Simply right click, and convert any USB drive (or folder) into an encrypted container, drag and drop files, and share the drive. With PGP Portable, there’s no need to install any software to access data on the PGP Portable-enabled drive. So now you can encrypt the USB drive lying in your office drawer, drop files into it (just like a regular drive), and drop it in the office mail for Bob at the audit firm.

Call Bob and give him the passphrase you used (using a secure method). Bob then inserts the drive into his Windows PC (or a Mac!), enters the passphrase you gave him, and reads or modifies the files as he wishes.

Yes, it is just that easy.

1. Insert any USB drive. Select the USB drive, right-click, and create a PGP Portable Disk

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2. Create a passphrase. The image below shows creation of PGP Portable-protected folders (which can then be burned onto optical media for sharing)

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3. To access the encrypted data, simply insert the USB drive or CD/DVD into any Windows or Mac OS X system. Enter the correct passphrase, and access the data!

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Although there are some hardware and native software solutions that protect removable devices, they don’t always offer a complete solution. What’s nice about PGP Portable is that:

i)    Unlike the native BitLocker-To-Go on Windows 7, it protects USB drives and CDs/DVDs (yes, Blu-Ray too!!). So next time you’re distributing the latest revision of documents to partners or your field force, rest assured the data stays protected.

i)    PGP Portable-enabled devices can be shared with Windows and Apple® Mac OS X users, without requiring any software installation to access the data.

iii)     There are no application windows you need to work with, or additional steps you need to take to access or modify these files. You work within the secure container just as you would with a regular USB drive, using your operating system’s native file explorer. You can also change the passphrase (provide you know the old one, of course).

iv)     It can be centrally managed. This ensures IT officers can enforce their corporate security policy automatically and easily.

v)     My favorite: it is software based. Which means you can secure any USB drive. Personally, I find carrying and using a specialized encrypted USB drive to be expensive and cumbersome.