4 Top Ways How to Encrypt an External Hard Drive



4 Top Ways How to Encrypt an External Hard Drive- Because the average cost of a data breach has climbed by 10% to $4.24 million, knowing how to encrypt an external hard drive is critical. Unwanted or illegal access to sensitive or personal information is referred to as a data breach. Data breaches are complex intrusions in which hackers use system security gaps to gain access to networks and information, according to several corporations. As a result, they tend to devote the majority of their efforts to securing the network perimeter, such as firewalls, endpoint detection and response systems, antimalware products, and intelligent threat hunting capabilities.

All of these factors, as well as a slew of others, are critical in safeguarding customer and company data from ever-increasing cyber threats. However, many businesses overlook one of the most widely utilised but potentially insecure data storage and backup methods: external hard drives. Data stored on an external hard drive, such as a USB flash drive or any other external storage device, must be protected just as carefully as data stored in the cloud or on a computer’s internal hard drive. The use of external hard drives has expanded considerably as more firms become data-driven. In 2020, 260.3 million hard discs will be supplied worldwide, down from 316.3 million in 2019. Despite the fact that fewer hard discs will be supplied in 2020, hard drives will continue to be essential for storing company data.

What is External Hard Drive Encryption?

Encrypting an external disc or a USB device is a simple process. It basically prevents unauthorised users from accessing data saved on a hard disc by employing complicated mathematical functions and algorithms. Furthermore, a hard drive encryption method adds an extra degree of protection by requiring users to enter a correct password or decryption key in order to access the stored data. The following are the main benefits of encrypting a hard drive:

Secure data transfer: Companies utilise external hard drives to communicate data between internal departments and other interested parties in a secure manner. Unencrypted data in transit can be intercepted by malicious actors for a variety of illicit purposes, including selling to competitors or selling on the dark web. Using proper hard disc encryption technologies can enable secure information transfer in this regard.

Following compliance laws: Organizations who fail to encrypt specific information are subject to severe fines under various regulations. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) both have encryption requirements (GDPR). As a result, encrypting external hard drives can help firms comply with regulatory requirements.

Enhanced data security: When storing sensitive data on external hard drives, one of the biggest concerns is that the data could be lost or stolen. To compromise the data on a lost hard drive, a user must connect it to a computer and gain access to it. Insider threats also pose a threat to organisational data security, and they are frequently on the lookout for missing, unprotected hard drives. Fortunately, using the correct hard disc encryption strategy assures that data saved on a portable hard drive (removable drive) is unavailable to malevolent or unauthorised individuals, even if the drive is lost:

Maintaining data integrity: Unauthorized access to an unencrypted hard disc can result in unauthorised data alteration, deletion, or addition, jeopardising the integrity of the data. In terms of consistency, correctness, and completeness, data integrity assures that information remains in its original state. By encrypting a hard disc with industry-standard protocols, a company may prevent malicious actors from altering or modifying important data, ensuring its integrity.

Why you Should Never Leave a Hard Drive Unencrypted

A Healthcare Institution Fined Heavily Violations of HIPAA Compliance

Encrypting eternal hard drives, as previously said, helps to comply with numerous rules. However, Massachusetts-based Fresenius Medical Care North America was required to pay a $3.5 million fine for violating HIPAA compliance rules. After stealing unprotected hard discs and USB devices in 2012, malevolent individuals compromised the electronic health information of multiple patients. The health institution was required to pay the charge because HIPAA compels organisations with access to health data to use strong encryption standards. Most enterprises would be crippled by such a large penalty.



Unencrypted Hard Drive with Seven Years’ Worth of Backup Data Stolen

An unencrypted external hard drive containing electronic health record data dating back seven years was lost by Denton Health Group, a division of HealthTexas Provider Network. Phone numbers, insurance policies and provider details, clinical data, lab results, medicines, medical practitioners’ names, social security numbers, home addresses, and driver’s licence numbers were among the sensitive patient data categories found in the backup files. As a result, the stolen hard drive had an impact on both patients and medical personnel. An instance like this should serve as a constant reminder of why every company should encrypt external hard drives using the approved encryption methods.

Payroll Information of Facebook Employees Lost

Someone stole many unencrypted physical hard discs, resulting in a data breach that affected 29,000 employees. The payroll employee had left the unencrypted external hard discs in the car at the time of the event, only to return and find them missing. Employee bonus and equity details, wages, social security numbers, bank account numbers, and names were among the sensitive data on the stolen discs. Attackers can use this information to carry out additional assaults like targeted phishing and identity theft. The portable drives would have been useless to the thief if the payroll employee had encrypted them, because encryption prohibits individuals without the correct key from accessing the data.

Health Data Compromised After Unencrypted Hard Drives were Lost

Six unencrypted hard discs were lost, according to Centene Corp, a health insurance company. According to the study, the stolen hard discs contained protected health information for 950,000 people, putting the insurer in jeopardy and putting the data owners at risk. Despite the fact that there was no proof that the information had been exploited, the incident highlights concerns about how a corporation should protect data kept on external hard drives.

How to Encrypt an External Hard Drive

Employees must be educated about the importance of encrypting any removable media used to store data by IT department chiefs. An company can encrypt its external hard drives, memory cards, and USB flash drives in four ways. Encrypting the entire drive, independently encrypting the contents saved on the disc, using hardware-encrypted drives, and using third-party encryption services are all options.

How to Encrypt an External Hard Drive – Encrypting Data Files Separately

Keeping unwanted users at bay is as simple as encrypting each file on an external hard drive. Essentially, the procedure entails encrypting each data file and making it unavailable without the necessary decrypting password. Furthermore, instead of individual files, a user can opt to store and encrypt data as a file system. Document processing software packages, such as Microsoft Word and Adobe, are commonly used encryption methods.

File encryption is advantageous since it allows for secure file exchange, whether over the internet or not. Employees, for example, can send encrypted files via email without fear of them being intercepted and used by cyber criminals. Even if they were intercepted, the information contained in them would remain unusable since the attackers would require a password or decryption keys to access it.

How to Encrypt an External Hard Drive – Encrypting the Entire External Hard Drive

Modern corporate operations, competition, and growth have all become more dependent on technology. Every organisation, at the very least, has incorporated some type of technology, such as computer systems. Built-in utilities in operating systems such as Linux, macOS, and Windows allow anyone to encrypt an external hard disc drive used to hold sensitive data. For example, LUKS, FileVault, and BitLocker disc encryption are available in the Linux, macOS, and Windows operating systems, respectively. Some of the built-in external drive encryption tools allow users to produce and save a recovery key in case the password is forgotten. Users of Windows can also create a backup.

Because a user must set a strong password to access the hard disc once it has been properly encrypted, the built-in encryption tools are simple to use. However, incompatibility is the main drawback of utilising the programmes to encrypt whole discs or USB sticks. For example, encrypting an external hard drive in Windows using the BitLocker option encryption mode prevents it from being accessed by a Linux computer, even if the user has the correct password. Users of the Windows operating system can save the recovery key in their Microsoft accounts.

Regardless of the encryption mechanism used, installing the required software programme can permit access and use on any OS. In the end, full disc encryption protects against unwanted access. To boost security, one can encrypt the files stored on the hard drive independently while also encrypting the entire hard drive.

How to Encrypt an External Hard Drive – Using a Third-Party Software

An company can encrypt its external storage discs using a variety of third-party software solutions. To provide the strongest encryption techniques, most systems use industry-standard encryption schemes like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Furthermore, some of the solutions are open source and free, which is crucial for determining their validity and authenticity through source code evaluation. Finally, while encryption software may be platform or OS specific, it can be used to encrypt individual discs or data files.



Companies must, however, employ an encryption package from a reputable vendor to prevent utilising pirated or customised software that puts the data on the hard drive at risk rather than safeguarding it. Using customised encryption software more frequently can result in security problems such as backdoors or data exfiltration viruses.

How to Encrypt an External Hard Drive – Utilizing a Hardware Encrypted Drive

Encryption capabilities are embedded into several portable hard discs. A portable drive, for example, might have hardware or software-based encryption, with the user just needing to set a strong password to protect the data. When it comes to encrypting external hard drives, they are extremely efficient and simple to use, but it is often difficult to tell whether they provide optimal data protection or contain backdoors. However, encrypting an external hard disc is a simple way to protect crucial data.

Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Cybers Guards. Prior to that, She was responsible for leading its Cyber Security Practice and Cyber Security Operations Center, which provided managed security services.