Monday, November 9, 2015

EDC tech: Carry Your Desktop Computer in your Keychain

You can barely see the Sandisk USB Flash Drive. The black plastic square, to the left of the Victorinox...
Anonymous said...
This may interest you.

If you know what you're doing, you can mount a linux distribution on a USB device and make a boot stick. Plug it into any computer, boot from USB and you're good to go. If you do it right it runs with no appreciable lag, saves all your info to the USB, and heavily encrypts the USB drive.

This could have several major advantages.

1. No particular hardware needed. Any old device will do. If you lose or break any particular element of your computer it doesn't matter. You can also run this from a friend's computer if needed.

2. Security. If people come looking for data for whatever reason, they will look for a computer. They will find a computer, and then conclude that they've found all your goods. They won't be looking for a thumb drive the size of a stick of gum, which could be hidden anywhere. Even if they find it, it's heavily encrypted.

3. Portability. Self explanatory. Run it on a cheap/minimal computer, then if you have to go, eject it and it's small enough to fit in an Altoids tin with lots of room to spare.

Just an idea to throw out there.

That’s actually a great idea, one that I’ve researched and would like to experiment with a bit more. I created one when I installed Ubuntu in my Asus EEE, but I went ahead and installed it in the hard drive instead of running it from the flash drive.
Having a Live USB (Bootable USB flash drive) means you can basically use any computer you come across as your own, you just connect it and boot your OS, your desktop, your programs, saved files, etc. Linux is a great OS for such a setup. Ubuntu Linux may be a bit more commercial but it is extremely easy to install and use, very friendly for those not familiar with Linux. It really does install in no time, and it’s just as easy to create a bootable USB. You can learn how to use it in minutes (here’d the link) and it took me one afternoon to get used to Linux and learn how to set it up to my liking, how to install programs, etc. I’d say its considerably easier to use than Windows.
For those that want to try this out there’s two easy ways to go about it. The cheapest and easiest one is to go with Linux's USB Installer. Using any USB Flash drive you have to create your own Linux Live USB.(link on how to do this easily) I have a Sandisk Fit in my keychain which is extremely compact. This would be ideal because the tiny Flash drive barely protrudes from the USB port when installed in laptops, making it ideal for a Live USB.

Another way to go about it would be getting an IronKey Workspace W500 32GB, what they call “pc on a stick”. Ironkeys (256-Bit Aes Hardware Encryption) are the most secure flash drives in the planet and the Workspace W500 is Microsoft-Certified for Windows To Go, so you can run Windows securely in any computer without leaving behind any information, cookies, etc.
Its something worth looking into for those that would like to have their own computer environment available in whatever computer they come across.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.


Anonymous said...

I have worked in the computer industry for 20 years and NEVER thought of this!! What a great idea - thank you for passing it on. Gonna go get a thumb drive today, and download a copy of Ubuntu. Thanks again, Ferfal

Versatek6 said...

I agree that this is a great option, but will add one caveat. It won't work with all computers. Depending on the hardware's age and maker, it may not have a "Boot to USB" option available. I have a couple older but still viable HP and Toshiba notebooks that have current BIOS, but do not offer USB as a boot source.

At any rate, 90%(?) hardware compatibility is still darn good.

Bob Carney said...

Hi Ferfal,

Puppylinux.com has a simple, complete, and easy "Live USB."

BTW, thanks for the great books and articles over the years.


Anonymous said...

With ransomware on the rise, this makes perfect sense. Store your data on a seperate encrypted flash drive and use Tails on the other. Maintain minimal files on your computer. Check out this security web site: https://www.schneier.com/
I am currently running Linux Mint on a 4Gig USB stick

Anonymous said...

Go with they guy above^^^ Get tails downloaded to either a disc or a USB key. Discs are more reliable and taken by all computers but some legacy devices do not support USB boot and I've tried putting tails on different USB drives and none have worked so far. I may have installed them wrong but I doubt it. Go read the manual pages and read into it before attempting to install it to your device and run it. Linux has much better security than microsoft any ways. I run debian on a home server and I am going back and forth about using either Damn small linux or another small distro that will run smoothly on an old computer. Tor browser is good for any device you are running now too.

Unknown said...

Can you point me to the directions for installing Ubuntu on an USB drive. I like the idea but have no idea on how to go about it.
Thanks in advance.