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I recently purchased a My Passport external drive for my Mac. It comes with software (WD SmartWare) that apparently encrypts the drive. Does anyone have an understanding of the level of security of this software and hardware? Is there an alternative with higher standards? I've heard of software such as TrueCrypt, but would that be appropriate for my hardware? Or is a cloud-based solution more secure for storing my data?

There is a discussion in SuperUser about the type of encryption WD SmartWare uses: https://superuser.com/questions/249112/does-wd-drive-lock-encrypt-the-data

  • if that linked page's answers are correct, it's pretty safe as long as someone doesn't physically remove the drive so that they can remount the platters in a new drive. of course, encryption on top won't hurt security, but low-level locks like that are very nice and safe (hard to bypass) so long as physical security is maintained. – dandavis Aug 14 '16 at 21:45
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Here are a few tips about encrypting external drives:

  • use only open-source software - only that way you can be sure (if you check the source code or believe that the community does :P) that there isn't any backdoor + community can fix bugs which could otherwise be critical
  • consider whether you want to use hidden volumes
  • use software that allows you to choose the encryption algorithm (such as AES)

TrueCrypt is not being maintained anymore, but its fork, VeraCrypt is being actively developed and features everything mentioned above.

You may want to consider file encryption (not disk encryption) too.

I'd suggest using GPG for that. You can use both symmetric and asymmetric cryptography with it.

These are just my suggestions. Depends on your needs. Choose what suits them best.

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I wouldn't trust the software that comes on it. Look at this link of tip 5 encryption programs and use veracrypt. I use Linux and use tomb for Linux. The veracrypt software is mostly what I was referring, although they mention a few others.

http://lifehacker.com/five-best-file-encryption-tools-5677725

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I would add that WD disk security seems to have serious flaws, according to multiple sources.

The hardware-based encryption built into popular Western Digital external hard disk drives has flaws that could allow attackers to recover data without knowing the user password.

A team of three security researchers investigated how the self-encryption feature was implemented in several popular Western Digital My Passport and My Book models. Depending on the type of microchip used for the encryption operation, they found design flaws and backdoor-like features that enable brute-force password guessing attacks or even decryption of the data without knowing the password.

In some cases they found that the encryption is performed by the chip that bridges the USB and SATA interfaces. In other cases the encryption is done by the HDD’s own SATA controller, with the USB bridge handling only the password validation.

Source: Western Digital encrypted external hard drives have flaws that can expose data
(emphasis by me)

Here you can find the scientific paper for details.

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