Keep a Secure USB Boot Drive (Live USB) in Your Pocket
Many people are not aware that it is possible to run an operating system on a USB flash drive (USB boot drive). It is additionally possible to boot from USB flash drives directly, but in this case, you are only utilizing the computer BIOS at startup and the operating system installed on the computer does not load allowing you to easily launch an operating systems from the flash drive if it is large enough. These USB boot drives are commonly referred to as Live USBs. Generally, many people boot Linux from USB drives, but most operating systems are available through this method. It is possible to utilize both Windows and Mac OS on a Live USB.
Another use of booting directly from a USB flash drive is when using Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption. In order to decrypt the encrypted data on a PC volume, a USB Key Mode can be used which reads a BitLocker encryption key directly from a USB flash drive during the boot sequence.
Live USB’s have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Firstly, Live USB’s provide an extra bit of privacy and flexibility. This is possible because Live USB’s can be carried with the user wherever they go and there is no reliance on a computer operating system that might not be secure.
But, there are surely drawbacks associated with many of these devices. As live USB’s are small in size, they can get lost or misplaced. Retrieving them could then be an impossible task, and in this case, it is not just a few files that are at risk, it is your entire operating system of files, software, and browsing history. Due to this, it is very important to encrypt the data on the Live USB. Typically the methods to encrypt the data also result in the encryption key (which deciphers the encryption) being stored in the same place as the data- this is not a good practice. Also, since encrypted data requires an authentication mechanism (such as password, PIN, or biometric authentication) most encrypted devices can not run the password authentication software prior to computer operating system boot.
The only secure USB flash drives that properly supports the functionality required to boot from a USB flash drive is one that uses hardware authentication. The LOK-IT Secure Flash Drive has a PIN-pad on the body of the drive that is used to enter a PIN code. This authenticates the drive and allows for decryption of the data, all without requiring any connection to the computer.