I have started to hit that point at which you have too many small memory devices floating about. I’ve bought one, been given two, and have a memory stick and backup in my Palm. While I’m not carrying personal data – about me or other people – there are times when I might keep an electronic copy of a file that has information that is not for public consumption. I usually use a USB (flash drive, thumb drive, etc.) device to tote it but I’ve started to look at how I can secure those files.
You can buy USB devices now with security built in. But if you have a legacy drive, you might consider using Truecrypt, which I first learned about at Lifehacker. It is a utility that you install on your computer and that enables you to create a virtual, encrypted drive on your USB device. To access the encrypted information, you “mount” the drive on your computer, access the files like any other drive, and then “unmount” the drive to re-secure the content. You can put the Truecrypt files on your USB, making the entire package portable.
Here is a quick tutorial on how to load it to your USB device at OReillynet, describing how to install Truecrypt so that it runs without having to be loaded on a local PC. I found the same problem that some of the comments had, which is that you need to have the truecrypt.sys file on the USB drive as well as the executable. But after that, it worked as advertised. Of course, if you work in an environment where the operating system stops applications from running, you won’t be able to run the USB-based truecrypt.exe regardless. But it’s nice to know that, if I lose a stick, the data on it is no good to anyone else.