You could be wrapping up your external hard drives, putting a bow on top, and then handing them to a thief. One of the top problems with external hard drives is that they’re very easy to steal.
But when external hard drives are stolen, you don’t just lose the drives—you also lose all of the data on them. Some thieves won’t care about the data; they’re just going to replace your data with their data. But some thieves will look through your data for anything else they can steal—passwords to your PayPal account, credit card information, even your home address so they can steal your identity.
How To Keep External Hard Drives Safe
You can do two things to keep your external hard drives safe: prevent your external hard drives from being stolen and prevent your data from falling into the wrong hands.
Physical security can be easy or hard depending on your situation. If you travel around a lot, the best option is to lock your external disk drives to something solid—like a desk. Most external hard drives include hardware that lets them use $20 laptop security chains.
Admittedly, locking down your external hard drives looks lame, but if you’re a poor college student, it’s a lot better than losing your external hard drives—and your almost-finished term paper.
You can also enhance the security of your external hard drives by permanently labeling them as belonging to you. Use cheap engraving tools from the dollar store and make sure thieves will see your mark before they steal your external hard drives.
Keeping Stolen External Hard Drives Secure
But if your external hard drives are stolen despite your protective measures, you don’t need to despair of handing your most sensitive documents over to some random thief.
You can secure your external hard drives by installing basic encryption software on your computer. The encrypted external hard drives can’t be read by anyone without your password. (Short passwords can be easily cracked, so make it a long password.)
Why doesn’t everyone encrypt their external hard drives? Three reasons stand out:
1. It requires special software—and that software needs to be installed on all the computers that use the external hard drives.
Worse, you can’t store the software on typical hard drives because you need the software in order to access the external hard drives. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem.
2. Encryption slows down the drive a little bit.
3. You lose all access to the data on the drive if you forget your password. There’s no password recovery service. (Although you can download free password cracking software that will slowly try to break your password.)
Still, I highly recommend encryption to anyone who keeps secure files on their external hard drives.
A Hidden Security Risk On External Hard Drives
You probably know that Windows will automatically run a program installed to a special file on external hard drives. Viruses install themselves into this special file so that they can spread to all the computers you use your external hard drives on.
This is one of the most common ways to get a virus these days because most anti-virus software can’t block these autorun applications.
Any virus on any computer you use can infect your external hard drives, and any computer you connect to can catch a virus from your external hard drives, so be extra careful about connecting to strange computers.
There is no doubt that we all need an external hard drive to use as a backup storage device for all of those important computer files we need to keep safe. An external hard drive is not the only way to save your files though. Here are 5 backup storage devices, but keep in mind that they all have their own unique security risks.
If you have any tips to make your files more secure please share them with us by leaving your comment below.