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How Do I Encrypt Disks and USBs?

Nowadays, digital security is a must, with hackers getting easy access to information through your digital footprint. Recent innovations in security, like biometrics and two-factor authentication, intend to secure your data, but these only prevent hackers from accessing one account. They can always find ways to brute force the security through DDoS attacks and cryptanalysis of the security system.

Thus, to ensure that you're protected from a security breach, you need to create measures that include a deeper understanding of computers and how digital security works. Fortunately, there are many internet resources for this kind of information; it's up to us to dive into them to protect ourselves.

Files security is especially important for people using the internet for work, like sending and receiving confidential company reports. Even so, when offline, an average user cannot know if the computer they have been using has been infected with a virus that compromises their files the whole time.

That said, file encryption is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your files are safe from hackers and not compromised. In this article, we will explain the process of encrypting disks and USB drives in a manner that is easy to understand. We'll provide some context on otherwise confusing concepts for an average reader.

What Are Disks and USB Drives?

Before we dive into the details of encrypting disks and USB drives, it’s important to understand their functions and how they are used in the first place to solidify our foundational knowledge of securing the files stored inside them.

Disks and USB drives don't have much of a difference in function. They both store files and can be carried around to transport those files easily. The most noticeable distinction is the size of the storage they offer. For instance, hard disks (or hard drives) can store up to 1 terabyte (TB) of files, sometimes even more. USB drives or flash drives usually come in smaller storage sizes.

Flash drives are handy and easy to carry around, as they are also physically small, aside from the mentioned smaller storage size. However, they are short-term storage because the main intention is to transport files from one computer to another without the help of the internet. For example, you just downloaded a video of 4 GB size on a public computer. You can use the flash drive to temporarily store the video until you can transfer it to your personal computer.

Meanwhile, hard drives are large and have a longer lifespan than flash drives. They work better for professionals who regularly use large files to work on their projects, such as digital artists and animators who work on their computers to render high-quality images and videos.

Projects like these often take up so much space, not to mention the software needed to work on them, which can take up a large portion of the storage. For example, the rapid evolution of 3D art has resulted in more sophisticated artworks, so most animators would rather go for a desktop instead. Hard drives are more expensive because of their bigger capacity and longer lifespan.

Benefits of Encryption

Privacy isn't the only thing that you get from encrypting files. In some cases, it can also serve as a backup for the files you save on your computer daily. You can customize how you encrypt your files, meaning you can encrypt individual files and decrypt them whenever you need them. You can do this to reduce the risk of losing all your files all at once if you forget your encryption password or if a hacker manages to steal your password and they access the files before you do.

Unlike using security software programs like VPNs to protect you from hackers, encrypting your disks and USB drives gives you full data privacy. You have exclusive access to those files without the hackers' prying eyes.

The concept of encryption is similar to UniJoin’s CoinJoin technology. Although the processes are different, the purpose is the same: to provide digital security to its users. File encryption keeps important documents secure from hackers, while CoinJoin technology offers anonymity to cryptocurrency users.

Encryption Process

Windows

Encrypting a drive on Windows is an easy process. The most common process is through BitLocker. To do full encryption of the files, do the following:

  • Locate the drive you want to encrypt in "My Computer" or "This PC."
  • Right-click the drive and select "Turn On BitLocker."
  • Click "Enter a password."
  • Ensure that the password you enter is secure and not an existing password that you use for all of your other accounts. It should be new and hard to decipher to strengthen security.
  • Enter the secure password.
  • Choose "How To Enable Your Recovery Key." This key will be useful if you forget your password from spending too much time not checking on your encrypted files. It's better to print this recovery key so you don't accidentally delete this when you perform a clean-up on your device in the future.
  • Click "Encrypt Entire Drive" if you wish to encrypt the files already in the drive. You can also choose the other option: encrypt only the data currently in use and the data moving forward. Choose “New Encryption.”
  • Finally, click "Start Encrypting." If you're encrypting the boot drive, this step will trigger a restart once done. The encryption process will take some time, but you'll be able to use your computer while processing in the background.

macOS

Similar to BitLocker, macOS users can also encrypt their drives using the macOS Disk Utility. Do the following to encrypt your drive in macOS:

  • Create a backup of your existing files in your target drive. This step is critical because you will lose all your files once you start encrypting your drive without backup.
  • Navigate to Application>Utilities, then click on Disk Utility. Under View in the top left corner of the window, click “Show All Devices.” Here you can find your target drive to encrypt.
  • Click "Erase" at the top of the window. This step will trigger the appearance of several drop-down menus. From here, you should select:
    • Format: mac OS Extended (Journaled, Encrypted)
    • Scheme: GUID Partition Map
  • Choose a secure password, and enter it.
  • Click Erase. It will take a moment, but the system will begin erasing the files and encrypting the drive.
  • Transfer your backup files back to the encrypted drive.
  • Eject and remove your drive.

Conclusion

The most obvious use case of encrypting your drive is to protect your data privacy. These data can include your personal information, such as work files or banking details that you need to gain access to your money and savings. Cryptocurrency, for instance, can be stored within an encrypted drive that will serve as a cold wallet. Cold wallets are offline wallets that ensure no hackers on the internet can gain access to your digital assets because you’re storing them on a device that hackers will need to obtain physically to steal them.

Once you're all done with your encryption process, you can organize your files and make sure that you're storing the most important things in an encrypted drive. It's important to know that if you're using a flash drive for this process, you need to conserve the size of your storage and only store those that are important since flash drives don't have as much size as a hard drive.

Aside from the pre-installed software like BitLocker and macOS Disk Utility, other software programs are available on the market that you can use to encrypt your files. These may have some otherwise absent features in macOS Disk Utility and BitLocker, so be sure to check them out as well. You might have something you need, and it is only available through that software.

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