If we store important data or files in a USB stick or an external drive/PenDrive, we need to protect it, lets find out how to protect it
If we often use a USB stick in public places or on shared workstations, it is good to protect one’s privacy by hiding the files in it from other people’s sight.
To do this you need to encrypt the contents of the USB stick so that it will become invisible to all, while for us it will be enough to enter the security password to easily access the files without any problem.
In order to protect the data of a USB stick or a pen drive, we can use the free VeraCrypt program, which can hide all the contents of a stick in a single secret file, which can only be unlocked with the program.
Here below we will show you how to prepare the USB stick and how to use VeraCrypt on Windows to hide the files loaded on the pendrive.
Protect the data of a USB stick with VeraCrypt
As a first step we will have to completely empty the chosen USB stick (of any size you want) from the existing files: it is not essential in reality, but it is very convenient to do so to keep the order on the stick and avoid confusing the encrypted file with other files.
If the USB stick contains useless files we can format it directly by clicking on the This PC icon (or by opening the same menu from File Explorer ), then by right-clicking on the thumb drive icon and finally opening the Format menu.
A window will open where to select the FAT32 or NTFS file system, select Quick Format and finally click on Start.
If the files to be stored on the USB stick are small, we can use it as a FAT32 file system; if we have to save videos in HD or other large files (over 4 GB) we recommend using NTFS.
Now that the flash drive is ready, we need to install the portable version of VeraCrypt on it, which can be downloaded for free from the link here -> VeraCrypt Portable.
Why focus on the portable version of the program compared to the installable version?
VeraCrypt Portable we can install it directly inside the USB key to be protected, so as to access the files encrypted by each PC without having to make sure that the latter has VeraCrypt installed.
Download the installer of the portable version of VeraCrypt and, with the key still inserted in the PC, start it up to the screen to choose the destination folder of the portable program, where we will select the inserted USB drive (check which letter has assigned the PC to the device) using the Browse button.
Now we can click Install to complete the VeraCrypt installation process on the USB drive.
To start protecting it, we open the USB stick from the This PC menu then select the executable VeraCryptPortable, present in the only folder in the memory of the key.
The program will open immediately.
To protect any type of file we will have to create a protected volume, a kind of “secret area” where you can hide all the files protecting them behind a password.
This protected area will appear on the stick as a single encrypted file, which can only be managed with VeraCrypt.
To create your protected volume inside the USB stick, click on Create a volume in the program interface.
In the first window that will appear select the item Create an encrypted container file then click on Next; in the second screen we select Volume VeraCrypt standard and let’s click on Next.
We will now find ourselves in one of the most important screens, that is to choose the location of the encrypted volume file; click on the Select File button, make sure that the path of the file is inside the USB stick (possibly outside the VeraCrypt folder), we choose below a name to give to our archive then we click on Save and then on Next.
On the next screen, make sure that it is selected as the AES encryption algorithm and the SHA-512 confusion algorithm (more than enough for our purposes) and then click on Next again.
We will find ourselves in a new screen where to choose the size to give to the encrypted volume; we can also use all the available space available (also on the basis of the files to be saved), but we recommend using only 70% of the space of the key, so you can manage it better.
We indicate the size in MB or GB so click on Next to continue.
We have arrived at the most important screen of the whole creation process, that is the choice of the password that will protect the files stored inside the encrypted volume.
Now try to insert a strong password of at least 12 characters, containing uppercase and lowercase plus a number and a special character (like @,!, *, & Etc.).
Click on Next when done.
We will find ourselves in the final screen, where to select as file system of the encrypted NTFS volume and in which we have to move the mouse randomly in all directions until the bar at the bottom fills up and becomes all green (used to create random keys).
To finally create the volume, simply click on Format below.
The time needed to create the volume depends on the size chosen and the speed of the USB stick, but for small volumes it takes no more than a few minutes.
Now that the volume is created, we will not have to do is mount it by opening VeraCrypt, selecting one of the free system letters on the PC used at the top, then click on the Select file at the bottom.
Select the encrypted file inside the USB stick, click OK and then select the Mount button at the bottom of the application.
A window will open where you can enter the password for the volume; at the end we click OK to mount the volume inside the system.
Now the protected archive will be present on the PC as if it were any other disk with the letter we assigned during assembly; we can view or add new files to protect by opening the This PC menu and clicking on the new disk that will be shown.
Once the protected disk has been filled or viewed, all you have to do is open VeraCrypt again and click on Unmount all to re-encrypt the file and protect the USB stick data.