USB sticks and portable hard drives are usually a quick and convenient way to transport data or share files, but they also have drawbacks.

The consequences can be severe

Using USB sticks and portable hard drives is not without risk. They are:

  • vulnerable to damage and/or have a short lifespan;
  • easily misplaced;
  • at a high risk of being stolen (as they're small and valuable);
  • hampered by the lack of an automatic backup facility.

All of these may cause your data to become permanently lost. Alternatively, data may fall into the hands of a third party. Even if their intentions are honourable, this still constitutes a data breach if it involves personal data. The consequences are no laughing matter!

We recommended UU-managed storage options

If you store data at a location managed by UU, you can be certain that they are secure and will be backed up. If you believe your security demands exceed the available options or if you require advice, you can contact one of our experts with no obligation.

Need to store data somewhere else? Here's how to mitigate the risks

In addition to making regular backups (consider scheduling a recurring event in your diary), you should ensure that you encrypt your data when storing them to prevent them being accessible to others. There are two ways to do this.

Option 1: choose a ready-made solution

Use a USB stick or portable hard drive with built-in hardware encryption. All you have to do is set up a code (once only). This requires no technical expertise.

USB-stick with a code:

To use a USB stick (many different storage capacities are available), you set up a PIN code once only. You must enter this code before you can use it and then plug it into your computer to access your data. The stick works on Mac, Windows and Linux. Read the manual for the Kingston DataTraveler 2000 here.

Portable hard drive with a code:

To use a portable hard drive, you set up a PIN code once only. You must enter this code before you can use it and then plug it into your computer to access your data. The hard drive works on Mac, Windows and Linux. To order one, contact your ICT contact person. Read the manual for the Ewent EW7040 here.

Option 2: encrypt your portable drive or USB stick yourself

If you already own a USB stick or portable hard drive and a ready-made model (as described above) is not an option, you can encrypt it yourself. The ICT Service Desk offers no support for this.

If you are using Windows you can use Bitlocker to encrypt your own USB-sticks and drives. Please note that while encrypted with Bitlocker, the USB-stick can't be used on a Mac (without extra software).
If you are using a Mac, you can use FireVault to encrypt your external drives and sticks.

When using the above tools for your own USB stick or hard drive, you must choose and remember a password of your own. When using a ready-made solution, you must remember your code. NB: nobody can retrieve the password/code if you forget it, so make sure you don't!