Software vs. Hardware Based USB Encryption

Although there are multiple types of USB encryption, each of which is designed to ensure that no unauthorized individuals can access your files, hardware based encryption is easily the strongest for protecting USB security. USB devices that come with hardware based encryption have one substantial benefit over the alternative methods – their security cannot be tampered with without destroying the device.

The Difference Between Hardware and Software Encryption

USB encryption software, although effective, is a software program like any other software program. As such, it can be hacked into the same way that computer games and windows programs are hacked every day. This hacking isn’t easy, but a well created software program does have the ability to be unlocked by skilled programmers.

USB encryption software also has the ability to be rewound – that is, returned to a backed up state so that any password you may have created recently or after you had stored your files can be removed as if it had never been installed. Again, it is a difficult process, but one that is open to an individual’s hacking attempts.

Hardware based data encryption, on the other hand, have safeguards that prevent the both the internal hardware and software from being removed. For example, some USB drives have internal counters that are not set by the user, so they cannot be removed or reset. Once someone enters an incorrect password too many times, the files contained in the USB drive are permanently frozen, and essentially deleted. This means that no one that does not know your password will be able to continually try to guess it without risking permanent deletion of all the files contained in the drive.

Similarly, software encryption tends to depend on a file that is physically on the pen drive in order to save the password and its algorithm. Skilled computer hackers can download the file and solve the algorithm by using computer “bots” to simultaneously try to guess the password, until the algorithm has been broken.

Hardware USB encryption, on the other hand, will not connect itself to a computer until the password has been given, making it impossible to download the file without already knowing the password.

Weaknesses with Some Hardware Encryption

Just because it is much more difficult to solve the algorithm, some USB hardware encryption devices can be hacked if the flash memory is removed and placed into a homemade computer platform, but many USB drives with hardware encryption techniques now come with safeguards to prevent these flash chips from being removed, helping to ensure that the drive encryption cannot be tampered with.

Both software and hardware encryption devices have their benefits and weaknesses, but a properly created piece of hardware encryption for a USB drive tends to be a stronger piece of a equipment overall with less ways vulnerable to unauthorized access.


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