Data Encryption: Hardware or Software Solutions

A recent ComputerWorld study reported that more than 80% of the 500 businesses surveyed had lost various portable devices containing sensitive data over a 12 month period. Even more staggering is that 64% of the companies revealed that the lost data was not either backed up or physically secure. According to the survey, this information contained both client data and employee info. This is another blatant omission of how one too many companies are lacking knowledge in regard to data security.

We transport data in a variety of different ways these days. Laptops, BlackBerries, flash drives and other portable devices are all capable of storing valuable information. These devices are also more susceptible to damage or theft. If someone happens to steal the device, all the data it contains could be compromised.

Data Encryption

The solution to protecting your confidential information is data encryption. This technology encodes data by scrambling messages so they cannot be interpreted by intruders. Once limited to government usage, this form of security is now widely used by the public in both the corporate and home computing environment.

When it comes to data encryption you essentially have two options: software or hardware.

Software Solutions

There are several approaches one could take towards data encryption and software makes a viable option. You can choose to go with a commercial solution like GuardianEdge or open-source programs like TrueCrypt. While software is very useful, it can be vulnerable to certain attacks. Equipped with the right tools, a determined hacker could break the encryption scheme and access your data. Software makes a reliable security mechanism but hardware tends to be a more efficient form of data encryption.

Hardware Solutions

Many users have turned to solutions like IronKey to protect their portable devices. This company provides data encryption with hardware-based USB flash drives. IronKey drives do not require software installations, drivers or the assignment of administrator privileges, making it easy to move the device from computer to computer. If the drive is lost or stolen, the protection of your important data is almost guaranteed. Many of these drives are both tamper-proof and waterproof, equipped with several features that make data completely useless when someone tries to uncover it. It's very common for thieves to remove memory chips and mount them on other computers to access data; data encryption hardware can prevent this from happening.

Computer hackers are very savvy and will employ several methods to crack a software-encrypted drive. One technique involves plugging the drive into another machine and using multiple zombie computers to crack the encryption algorithm. With data encryption hardware, the drive can generate encryption keys of its own from a random number generator. Such devices are inexpensive, costing anywhere from $120-$200 depending on capacity. This is an affordable way to protect your data in the office and when you're out in the field.

While you may not always be able to prevent the loss or theft of your portable devices, data encryption hardware solutions allow you to securely transport sensitive information and ultimately prevent data from being accessed by unauthorized parties.


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You can protect your computer from viruses without expensive software. Instead, follow these simple tips:

Stay up-to-date on all system updates.

Don't download any email attachments you weren't expecting.

Avoid freeware and peer-to-peer sharing sites.

Use alternative web browsers and email software.