Suppose I have a live bootable USB drive with Linux installed on it. It is encrypted. I am booting off it on another computer with default OS Windows.

How much separation is there between the host machine and the USB drive while I'm using the Linux OS on the USB drive? Can something be installed on the host machine at a lower level that can still access any personal information or monitor the activities on the USB drive?

(Background: Not trying to do anything shady. Just recently started work at a consulting company with a lot of travelling ahead. I can bring two laptops, but if I can get away with using a portable OS on a USB drive on my work laptop to read personal e-mails and pay bills/do banking without leaking my personal information, it would make my packing much easier. My work explicitly states that they monitor all online and USB transfers using Symantec.)

  • Can you clarify what type of encryption? Are you using truecryp or are you talking about hardware encryption. e.g., they cell usb drives with physical pins to unlock. You also need to determine if your booting linux and telling it not to mount the the local hard drives. One other consideration is whether or not your regular corporate hard drive is encrypted with Bitlocker, symantec, etc. I always run a live cd/usb when traveling with an employers laptop. – Eric G Mar 13 '15 at 3:27
  • My work laptop's normal hard drive is encrypted with Bitlocker, and I know they've got Symantec EndPoint and their Data Loss Prevention software installed as well. On my end, I've encrypted my USB with BitLocker as well. I'm booting onto Linux just for personal files like banking spreadsheets, etc., so I won't be mounting any local drives or accessing work files. – Vork Mar 13 '15 at 22:49

When you boot off a USB, the only files that are running are the ones on your flash drive.

But, you might have to worry about the possibility of malware that can infect your CPU or RAM BIOS.

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  • Thanks for answering! Do you have any examples of those types of malware? I thought RAM was erased every time the computer turns off? – Vork Mar 13 '15 at 1:36
  • Yes, RAM is erased when your computer turns off. Malware can be stored on your hard drive or in your computer's BIOS. Make sure that you keep the OS on your USB in a safe place. – Marc Woodyard Mar 13 '15 at 1:55

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