USB peripherals and USB Devices are around for more than a decade and nothing much has changed when it comes to the basic protocols. We do have iterative hardware upgrades that brought increased storage and overall transfer rates. Apart from that, there is almost no change on the security front. Due to the portability and ease of use, we quickly discarded CD/DVD discs and came to rely on USB drives.
In fact, the USB storage devices are so portable that we prefer to carry all our stuff on it. But at the same time, what we don’t realize is the perils of losing our data. To deal with this, we can do two things. One — you should always backup the data on your USB drive somewhere safe, like a cloud drive. Two — you should consider encrypting the USB drive. Especially, if you are carrying sensitive information. Here are some of the best USB encryption software for you to try.
Also Read: 5 Best Encryption Tools For Windows 2016
What is Encryption
If you are new to encryption then the first question that comes to your mind is “what exactly is encryption.” In simple terms, encryption is an act of transforming data using an algorithm so that no unauthorized person can access, read, or modify the data. Generally, most encryption software uses passwords or key files to encrypt and decrypt files and devices. Due to the security it provides, encryption is one of the most effective ways to achieve data security. Remember the times you’ve entered a password to see the credit card or bank statement received from your bank via email? Well, that is encryption for you.
Do We Really Need Encryption for USB Drives?
More often than not, it is not a must. But, if you are carrying personal or sensitive information then you should consider encrypting your USB drive. Unlike a regular hard drive, USB drives are smaller in form factor and easy to lose or forget in public places like coffee shops and airports. In the event of any mishap, you don’t have to worry about the data on your USB drive if it is encrypted. Because no one can access the data without proper authorization.
Best USB Encryption Software
Gilisoft has been my personal favorite when it comes to encrypting USB Drives. Apart from its metallic UI which is strikingly outlandish, the program does come bundled with effective encryption features. Gilisoft is pretty easy to use and will run automatically once the USB is detected.
Users can choose the size of the encrypted partition and that’s it, the application will automate other processes. By default, Gilisoft uses the on-the-fly AES-256 algorithm to encrypt all your data. Moreover, in the event of any emergencies, Gilisoft also has a recovery option to recover your data.
Pricing: Gilisoft costs you a one-time fee of $49.95. There is a free trial available if you wish to try the software before buying. The trial version is limited to 10 uses. So, don’t encrypt any important data unless you are buying the software.
Platform support: Windows only.
While there is a slew of USB encryption software at our disposal not many are actually made for the Mac. LaCie Private-Public is one of the few encryption software that is available both for Windows and Mac OS. One might have already guessed by the name that the tool is of French origin but the other lesser known fact is that it comes from the guys at Seagate. LaCie works seamlessly with both fixed drives and portable drives. Just like the other USB encryption software, LaCie uses AES-256 algorithm to encrypt your files, folders, and drives. The good thing about LaCie is that you don’t have to install it on your machine. Just copy it to your USB drive and you are good to go. When you plugin the encrypted USB drive in another computer, LaCie will automatically prompt for your password and grants the access if the entered password is correct.
Pricing: The software is completely free.
Platform support: Windows and Mac OS.
USB Safeguard is a portable software that can be used to encrypt your drives using AES-256 encryption algorithm. The good thing about this software is that it allows you to create virtual containers to safeguard your data. Moreover, USB safeguard automatically locks the device when it is unplugged from the system or if the USB drive stays inactive for a set period of time.
Pricing: The free version caps total encrypted data at 2GB. The paid version costs you around $23 per license (actual price in Euros, €19 per license).
Platform support: Works only on Windows.
VeraCrypt is arguably one of the best and most popular open-source encryption tools. Moreover, it is a successor to TrueCrypt which ceased to exist a few years back. VeraCrypt is free and is available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Additionally, VeraCrypt supports AES, Twofish, and Serpent encryption ciphers. If you want to, you can create hidden encrypted volumes within the regular hard drives and USB drives. This option is particularly useful when you want to hide the fact that you are encrypting data. Most of all, VeraCrypt makes it very easy to encrypt and decrypt drives and files using its step by step wizard.
Pricing: VeraCrypt is completely free. If you are looking for a free and open-source application to encrypt your data then VeraCrypt is for you.
Platform support: Windows, Mac OS, and Linux
If you love everything open source than AxCrypt is something you need to check out. AxCrypt is a free, open source and GNU GPL-licensed encryption tool that aims at being simple, intuitive, and efficient. The best part of this tool is its integration with the Windows shell. Thanks to that one can easily encrypt a USB drive by right-clicking and selecting the option “AxCrypt.” Another interesting feature of this tool is the timed execution, one can lock down the file for a set period of time and it will unlock automatically. That said since it is a file encryption tool it can’t create encrypted volumes like VeraCrypt. Also, the program supports 128-bit AES encryption and has a built-in mechanism to resist brute force attacks.
Pricing: Free and open source
Platform support: Unfortunately, the program is only available for Windows and has a minimal footprint, less than 1 MB.
If you are a dedicated Windows user and don’t want to use or buy yet another software to encrypt and protect your USB drives then the built-in BitLocker module is for you. Using BitLocker you can encrypt entire drives and volumes/partitions with just a click or two. Depending your settings, BitLocker users 128-bit or 256-bit AES encryption. Since BitLocker is deeply integrated with Windows operating system, it gives you better speed while encrypting and uses hardware encryption using TPM (Trusted Platform Module). Moreover, BitLocker uses three different types of authentication methods called “Transparent Operation Mode” with uses TPM to automatically decrypt files, User authentication like PIN and Password, and USB Key Mode where you have to insert a USB drive containing a special key to decrypt the encrypted files. The good thing is, you can mix and match all those authentication methods for increased security. For instance, you can use all three authentication methods at the same time.
Pricing: BitLocker is built into Windows, you don’t have to pay anything extra. However, BitLocker is not available for users using Windows Home version. To get access to BitLocker you need to be using Windows Enterprise, Ultimate, Pro, Education, or Server edition.
Platform support: Windows Only.
DiskCryptor is yet another popular, free, and open-source drive and volume encryption tool for Windows. What’s good about DiskCryptor is it gives you a choice between AES-256 bit, Serpent and Twofish algorithms to encrypt and decrypt USB drives. Apart from USB drives, DiskCryptor can be used to encrypt almost any external storage device like CD/DVD, external hard drives, etc. If you want to, the software can auto-mount the encrypted partition or drive for quick access to your files and folders. Of course, you need to authenticate yourself before being able to access the data. Though DiskCryptor supports multiple encryption algorithms, it is very fast and the speed is comparable to non-encrypted drives. If you are someone that needs more control over how DiskCryptor works and not afraid of the command prompt then there is an optional Command-line Interface (CLI). To top it all off, Diskcryptor is very small in file size and uses very little system resources.
Price: Free and open-source.
Supported platforms: Windows only.
Rohos Mini Drive has a very simple, minimal, and easy to use user interface that makes it easy to encrypt a USB drive with just a few clicks. Just like the other software on this list, Rohos uses AES-256 bit algorithm and supports on-the-fly encryption. The good thing about Rohos is that it comes bundled with Rohos Disk Browser utility that allows you to read and write data to the encrypted USB drive on a guest operating system. If you want to, you can even hide folder or any other application directly on your USB drive. While encrypting a USB drive, you can also create a restoration disk which allows you to recover encrypted data in case of emergencies. For added security from keyloggers, Rohos Mini Drive supports virtual keyboard. You can use this virtual keyboard when using the USB drive on other systems. Most of all, Roho Mini Drive is also available in portable variant. With the portable application you don’t have to install Rohos in order to use it.
Pricing: The base version is free but lacks some advanced features and is limited to creating two 4GB encrypted containers. Which means that you can encrypt a total of the 8GB worth of data. To remove the limit and get access to other features like file shredder, autorun, support for encrypting regular hard drives, etc., you can upgrade Rohos Mini Drive with a one-time fee of $25.
Supported platforms: Windows only.
Cryptainer LE can encrypt almost any storage device, be it your regular hard or a removable device like USB or CD/DVD. The best thing about Cryptainer LE is that it gives you a choice between using AES-256 bit algorithm or 448-bit Blowfish algorithm to encrypt the USB drive. Just like VeraCrypt, you can create encrypted containers and use them to quickly read and write data as you wish. These encrypted containers appear just like any other drive in the File Explorer. This gives you the ability to perform all regular activities like copy, paste, new file/folder creation, modifying metadata, etc. Moreover, Cryptainer LE can also be installed directly on your USB drive so that no matter what system you are on, you will have access to all your encrypted files and folders. If you want to, you can even create self-extracting encrypted files and send them via email. Being a self-extracting containers, the recipient don’t have to install Cryptainer LE in order to decrypt the file, all they need is the correct password.
Pricing: The software is completely free with one caveat, each encrypted container you create is limited to 100MB in size. But you can create an unlimited number of containers. For a regular user who wants to encrypt files like photos and documents, this is pretty good.
You can remove this limitation by purchasing the pro version. Unlike other software on this list, Cryptainer LE charges you based on the container sizes. The pricing starts from $29.95 per license for 2.5GB containers (you can create an unlimited number of containers of this size). You can know more about the pricing structure form here.
Platform support: Windows only
All the above software are pretty good at what they do when it comes to USB data protection. But almost every one of them require you to setup and configure the software to work properly and optimally. However, if you don’t want to deal with all the hassle of setting up the software and choosing between encryption algorithms then Kakasoft USB Security is for you. Kakasoft USB Security encrypts and password protects your data with just three clicks. Unlike other software on the list, Kakasoft USB Security installs directly on your thumb drive to encrypt and password protect all your data. Once encrypted, it will automatically prompt for the password whenever you plug-in the USB drive in any other system. It is that simple to use, nothing more nothing less.
Price: $22.95. There is a free trial available if you want to try before purchasing the software.
Platform support: Windows only.
Wrapping it up
In a nutshell, encrypting your drives or at least certain volumes that are very important to you is always recommended. I personally ensure that my pen drive or any other portable devices are encrypted in order to ensure that my personal data does not fall into the wrong hands.
Each tool comes with its own set of pros and cons thus entrusting the users with the task of making the right choice. At the end of the day, it’s a no-brainer to opt for a strong Encryption tool of your choice.