FOR the travelling businessman, dangers abound. According to the most recent national data survey, the third-biggest source of data breaches in the country is people losing laptops, USB keys and external hard drives.
But losing the item itself isn't the problem: it's the fact that they're unprotected. In other words, there are far too many unencrypted storage devices floating around in planes, trains and automobiles.
It need not be thus. Although you will pay more for them, storage devices with strong encryption technology are available. Here are four you might try:
iStorage diskGenie 500GB
This diskGenie from iStorage is easy to set up and use. Just plug it into your PC (via the USB port) and it's ready to go.
You have to set a security code of between six and 16 digits, which then controls access to the drive. Additional security controls include a feature that causes the drive to self-destruct if it detects a so-called "brute force" attack on it.
There's one thing you have to watch out for here: because it favours a traditional optical drive (rather than a solid-state drive), it is a little slower and a lot more fragile than solid-state alternatives. However, this fact also keeps the price of the device down: solid-state drives are a lot more expensive.
Integral Crypto 16GB USB key
While portable hard drives are all well and good, it's hard to fit them in a pocket or a briefcase crevice. Thanks to the increase in storage quotients, most of us now use USB keys instead.
Happily, security encryption standards are catching up in this area, with a number of decent options available. The Integral Crypto key could be described as a basic model in the field. Its 256-bit encryption matches it to a rigorous security standard, while its rubberised finish makes it fairly robust.
The user is required to set a pin number of between eight and 16 digits (accessible on screen). However, six failed attempts will automatically erase all data on the drive.
Datashur USB 4GB key
While some USB keys ask for a virtual pin number, the Datashur USB drive goes a step further, with a physical keypad on the side of the device. This means you don't have to add any worries over operating-system lags to your list of issues.
The keypad goes from 0-9 and needs the user to set a pin number of at least eight digits. The whole thing is guided by a series of red and green flashing lights, which are a little tricky to get the hang of, at first. However, the authentication process is military-grade (256-bit) and so isn't easily bypassed, even by someone who knows what they're doing.
Although it's a relatively low amount of storage memory, this is a very high protection level.
StarTech 2.5-inch Encrypted Hard Drive Enclosure
This is a different way of tackling the issue. Instead of containing a portable hard drive, this StarTech box is designed to encrypt other hard drives.
In other words, you slot in a conventional 2.5-inch SATA hard drive (which is a standard model size) and lock it down using this device.
After that, you can only get into the hard drive by unlocking it again. I find this to be a slightly risky business: StarTech warns us upfront that if the enclosure is lost or the pin number is forgotten, you're on your own.
So this is probably only for those who require absolutely thorough solutions.