The 10 Best Encrypted Drives
You don't have to work for the Feds to want to keep all your sensitive information out of the hands of unwelcome virtual intruders. These encrypted drives connect conveniently to your computer via USB ports and are designed to keep any form of data safe. All the items on our list meet the requirements put forth in the oft-cited Federal Information Processing Standard document number 140-2. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best encrypted drive on Amazon.
More Than Just A Substitute
Such systems are much easier to hack with today's digital technology.
In that particular system, wherein each letter encodes as the next letter in the alphabet, a word like 'cat' becomes encrypted as 'dbu.'
Imagine, for a moment, that you'd written the next great American novel. Its pages contain the very essence of contemporary humanity, spelled out with such acuteness and alacrity that to call it a guaranteed success would be to miss the point. This book has the potential to change the way we see our world, to make monsters out of angels and sheep out of devils.
You have one editor that you trust at one publishing house across the pond in England. At some point, you need to get him a copy of the book, and he needs to take it to his printers. Somewhere along those lines, though, it could be compromised.
To guard against this, you keep the typewritten pages locked in a safe in your home, but the digital copy needs a shell of security at least this strong. That's where an encrypted drive will keep your materials exclusively in the hands of those whom you trust.
Modern encryption is non-linear. Linear encryption systems worked in their most rudimentary form as systems of substitution: a=b, b=c, c=d, etc. In that particular system, wherein each letter encodes as the next letter in the alphabet, a word like 'cat' becomes encrypted as 'dbu.' Such systems are much easier to hack with today's digital technology.
While that technology has opened up simpler systems to attack, it's also provided us with a means for the incredibly advanced, non-linear encryption that the devices on our list use. It starts with the fact that, in binary code, the letter A is not simply the letter A, but a binary representation of A which reads as 01000001. Even with a linear substitution system, the available combinations of zeroes and ones for the alphabet alone would make cracking a binary-based code significantly more difficult.
Of course, any modern encryption device takes these binary codes and sends them through a significant number of non-linear systems that take additional variables into account, like letter and word position. Even that concept is relatively basic when you get into the nitty-gritty of encryption mathematics.
It Helps To Have A Key
Taking a close look at the encrypted drives on our list, you'll see that a handful of them use a physical interface on the hard disk itself to lock and unlock your drive. That might leave you to wonder how the other disks know who's using them, and the answer to that question ought to help you decide which disk you want to take home.
That might leave you to wonder how the other disks know who's using them, and the answer to that question ought to help you decide which disk you want to take home.
All of the disks on this list encrypt as you write to them. The process seems invisible, and so it's often referred to as transparent encryption. They write the data onto the disk already encrypted, without a single bite of data stored in its original form. In the reverse order, transparent encryption devices decrypt data as you read from them, provided you have the proper key.
If you feel a greater sense of comfort with a physical unlocking mechanism, rather like the lock on a good home safe, you'll probably want a drive that comes with its own little keypad. Some manufacturers have incorporated such physical mechanisms on their thumb drives, so your options aren't limited to the big boys just because you like punching numbers.
The other drives on this list operate with a simple shadow disk at the front of their operating order. When you plug one of these in, an extraordinarily simple operating system pops up, asking you for the key phrase to unlock the rest of the disk. Be careful with these, however, as some will format the disk after enough failed attempts to log into it.
The only other variable that will guide you toward your decision is size. You ought to have a good idea bout how much data you plan to encrypt in storage. Most of these drives come in a variety of sizes, and our ranking system takes specific sizes into account when evaluating overall value, so after you click on a given link, check out your size options, and choose accordingly.
Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe
Secrets are among the few things that make us uniquely human. Conspiracy and concealment dot the history of human interaction like celestial bodies on a crystal clear desert night. More often than not, the secrets we keep have some merit at their cores.
Conspiracy and concealment dot the history of human interaction like celestial bodies on a crystal clear desert night.
Sometimes we hide information from those we love for their protection or their emotional comfort. Sometimes we hide truths about ourselves for our own safety in a hostile environment. Whatever our need for personal or professional secrecy, we've long applied our tools and intellect to the obfuscation of sensitive information.
Upon close examination, language itself is a form of cryptography, turning one understanding of our sensory experience (the non-linguistic one) into a specifically coded language. Of course, the purpose of this encryption is to increase understanding and communication, not to decrease it.
Encryption requires a written source text to become something more than a substitute language. It makes sense then that the first encryption we find in history lived in the Old Kingdom of Egypt nearly 4,000 years ago. Ciphers gained complexity as language evolved, and exploded in complexity under the Greek and Arabic mathematicians.
It was Alan Turing, however, who advanced the art of cryptography into the computer age. That revolution continues on today, as governments and standards organizations scramble to gain security in a landscape of brilliant young hackers and a rapidly approaching singularity.
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