Hello learners, today we will be learning how to encrypt USB drive with password for mission critical operations. Encryption is the art of securing digital information from access by unwanted parties. Over the years, encryption has evolved making it more easily accessible and compatible with different storage devices and operating systems. In this guide we will encrypt USB drive using VeraCrypt which is a free to use encryption software.
Overview on VeraCrypt
This is an opensource encryption software which is available on the internet for use in encryption. This is a descendant of TruCrypt encryption software which was found to have vulnerabilities allowing the encryption to be broken. To address these vulnerabilities, VeraCrypt was born. Once there was a report where the FBI were unable to break into a drive encrypted using VeraCrypt with a 50-character password. To start with, we will have to download VeraCrypt software.
- Have PC running on windows operating system with at least 4GB of RAM.
- Download VeraCrypt encryption software install file.
- Have a working USB drive.
- Have knowledge of using windows operating system.
- Little knowledge about encryption and the processes involved.
- Be able to follow this guide to the end.
With that in mind lets jump right in to encrypt USB drive using VeraCrypt.
Installing VeraCrypt on windows 10
Step 1: Download VeraCrypt software
Our first step will be to go to the official VeraCrypt official downloads page to download installer file for our PC. We have different versions of VeraCrypt so we have to choose according to our operating system.
Step 2: Run and install VeraCrypt software on our PC
We need to select the language, and agree on the license terms. And on the next screen we have two modes to choose from. The first option allows us to install VeraCrypt on the system and the second option is to be able to use VeraCrypt in portable mode. We will install VeraCrypt on the system.
On the next screen we leave the selected options as they are or you can choose to select and unselect the options depending on how you like the software to be on your system and we click Install to install the program.
And now we have our VeraCrypt encryption software installed and we are ready to encrypt USB drive now
Encrypt USB drive using VeraCrypt
Step 1: Select the USB drive to encrypt
Our first step is to select the USB drive that we want to encrypt. On the top left of the home window of VeraCrypt, we select to create a new volume and we select to encrypt a non-system partition which means it is an external storage device. Click Next and allow the VeraCrypt drivers to run on the PC.
Step 2: Choosing the volume type
On the next screen, we have to choose the type of the volume we need to create. The first option is the standard type, on this option we just encrypt USB drive without the need to hide the volume from being seen by unwanted parties. The second option hides the volume from being seen by unwanted parties. This option can be used to encrypt USB drive which store mission critical files.
In our guide we will be creating a standard VeraCrypt volume. We pick the standard volume and click Next.
Step 3: Selecting the volume location
We now have to select the location of the of the volume we want to encrypt, we navigate to choose our removable disk and click ok to encrypt USB drive.
Step 4: Choose the volume creation mode
The fourth step will be to choose the creation mode to be used to encrypt USB drive. VeraCrypt has two volume creation mode. The first mode “Create encrypted volume and format it”, will first delete all the files on the USB drive and format it. This is the fastest mode when creating volume and will be the one that we will use on this tutorial. The second mode, “Encrypt partition in place”, this option is slower compared to the first mode but the speed of volume creation depends on the size of the files existing in the USB drive.
Step 5: Choosing the encryption option and volume size
On the fifth step, we have several methods of encryption. We have to choose the encryption algorithm and the hash algorithm. Under VeraCrypt, we have at least fifteen encryption algorithms and four hashing algorithms. In this tutorial we will use AES encryption algorithm and SHA-512 hashing algorithm. After selecting these options, we click Next.
Step 6: Choose the volume creation mode
The next option on selecting the volume size is just to confirm the volume size since we choose to encrypt the whole USB drive.
Step 7: Setting the volume password
This is the most critical step to encrypt USB drive. This step will determine if your files will still be safe after encryption or it will water down your efforts to encrypt USB drive. The password we choose here should satisfy all the characteristics of a good password to ensure our encrypted volume is safe.
Avoid using personalized passwords i.e. passwords relating to maybe your name, birthday, favourite sports or hobbies and other features which can be easily related back to you. You can use an online password generator to ensure your password meets all the requirements. Make the password as long as you wish to make it stronger. You also have an option to use key files to open your encrypted volume.
If you intend to use the volume to store files more than 4GB of size, there is a screen to select that option before finishing to encrypt USB drive and click Next.
Step 8: Formatting the volume
As shown on the screen below, we are required to move our mouse randomly on the screen in order to increase the strength of our encryption keys used to encrypt USB drive. We also have to choose the format we want the USB to be formatted to and in our case, we choose exFAT and click Format in order to start to encrypt USB drive.
After the process is done, we have to try access the created volume and see if it worked.
Step 9: Mount the encrypted USB drive
We have successfully managed to encrypt USB drive and now we want to mount it and open it. When I tried mounting it I ran into an error telling me to format the drive in order to use it on the system.
The error is as shown below.
I launched the VeraCrypt software and had to use the auto mount option to mount the encrypted USB drive and a screen as shown below popped requiring me to enter the password I had used to encrypt.
At first the VeraCrypt software warns that it may become unresponsive as we wait for the verification process to finish. Now we have our encrypted volume open and ready to use on the left side of the screen you can see a new Local Disk I has been mounted and ready for use. On the right side we can see the disk is already mounted on VeraCrypt.
We can now open and add files to our encrypted drive and once we are through using the drive we can unmount it safely being sure that our files are behind a strong encryption hardened with a strong password.
In the above guide we have managed to encrypt USB drive using VeraCrypt encryption software using a strong password and a strong hashing algorithm to ensure maximum security. With this guide you will be able to encrypt your drives on which you keep personal files and other important files from unwanted access. Make sure to have a password backup in case you forget it. With the right implementation of VeraCrypt encryption on your drive, your files will always be safe from any third-party access. However, don’t use this tool on illegal missions.
He is an accomplished professional proficient in Python, ethical hacking, Linux, cybersecurity, and OSINT. With a track record including winning a national cybersecurity contest, launching a startup in Kenya, and holding a degree in information science, he is currently engaged in cutting-edge research in ethical hacking.