Security

How to encrypt a USB flash drive with VeraCrypt

If you need to make use of encryption for a USB drive, there's no easier way than with the help of VeraCrypt. Jack Wallen shows you how.

Padlock as a symbol of information safety

Image: CNET

Sometimes you have to travel with sensitive data saved on flash drives. When you do, it's important that data is locked away under a layer of encryption. One way to achieve that is by making use of a tool like the free, open source VeraCrypt. With this tool you can create encrypted volumes on your local drive, or even a USB flash drive.

I want to walk you through the process of installing VeraCrypt, and then encrypting a USB drive with the tool. VeraCrypt is available for Linux, macOS, Windows, and Android. I will be demonstrating the process on Elementary OS. Although the installation will vary by platform, the process of using the tool should be same.

Do note: Creating an encrypted USB drive will erase any data contained on the device.

Let's install and encrypt.

Installation

Installing VeraCrypt on Elementary OS requires the addition of a PPA. To do this, open up a terminal window and issue the command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:unit193/encryption

Now update apt and install with the following commands:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install veracrypt

When the commands complete, VeraCrypt has been installed and is ready to go.

Encrypting your drive

I'm not going to lie, this process takes a bit of time, especially the formatting section. With that said, insert your USB drive and open VeraCrypt from your desktop menu. From the main window (Figure A), click Create Volume.

Figure A

Figure A

The VeraCrypt main window.

In the next window (Figure B), select Create a volume within a partition and click Next.

Figure B

Figure B

Selecting to create a volume.

Next you must select the location for the volume (Figure C). This is crucial. Do not select the wrong device, otherwise you'll trash data on the incorrect drive. You need to make sure you know which device to select. On Linux, I like to issue the command df -h to make sure I know exactly which device that is to be used.

Figure C

Figure C

Selecting the correct device.

Now it's time to select encryption options (Figure D). Unless you have specific needs, the defaults should work fine.

Figure D

Figure D

Encryption options abound.

In the next window (Figure E), you must set a password for the volume. Do this and click Next.

Figure E

Figure E

Setting a volume password.

It's time to select your file system options. From the Filesystem type drop-down (Figure F), select the type of file system you want to use for your USB drive. After you make your selection, click Next.

Figure F

Figure F

Selecting your file system type.

Finally we reach the portion of the process that will eat up a good amount of your time. You need to move your mouse around within the window (Figure G), so the system can collect enough randomness for the encryption process.

Figure G

Figure G

Creating randomness is fun!

Once VeraCrypt has collected enough randomness, it will begin the very slow process of formatting your device. To format a 4GB USB drive took nearly 30 minutes. Once the process completes, you will receive a popup notification that the volume has been successfully created.

Using your drive

You can only mount the encrypted drive using VeraCrypt. To do that, open up the VeraCrypt app, select a drive slot from the main window, click the Select Device button, select the encrypted USB drive, and click Mount. You will be prompted for the encryption password. Once authenticated, you can then use the device. After using the device, unmount it by selecting the device in the main window and clicking Dismount.

Easy encryption for USB drives

VeraCrypt makes it quite easy to encrypt your USB drives and ensure you can then use them to house sensitive data. Give VeraCrypt a go, and see if it doesn't turn into your go-to encryption tool.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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