Encryption on some portable drives proves less secure than you’d expect

western digital encryption flaws mypassport
Encryption is a hot-button topic at the moment. If you’re a government official, it’s the bane of the intelligence world and a tool for terrorists. If you’re a whistleblower, freedom fighter, or journalist, it can be your lifeline to those that can help you. If you’re just an average citizen, it can be a way to give you a little bit more privacy than the current climate of technology offers.

But some devices that are designed to help Joe Consumer keep his files safe and secure from prying eyes while on the move are far from capable. In fact, some have been found to be easy enough to crack open that they don’t even require a password — making it rather redundant to create and memorize a long and complicated one.

This was discovered as part of an investigation by a group of security researchers into the levels of security on portable hard drives like Western Digital’s My Passport and My Book series. It turns out they are very lax, as those looking into it discovered multiple ways that the data could be removed quite painlessly.

Published in a report titled, “got HW crypto? On the (in)security of a Self-Encrypting Drive series,” the results paint a poor picture of Western Digital’s security, but also suggest that the standards within the industry are far from high.

While there are several security measures in place, like locking down the USB connection until a password is entered and salting the password, they don’t go very far in protecting the data. In one case, the random data used for the password hash is taken from the current time on a computer clock, making it very easy to guess. Although as Ars Technica points out, that particular flaw was patched out some time ago, not everyone will have updated their devices.

In another, much more egregious instance, the hash of the default password was found on some drivers when a user-generated code had only been changed once — making it a breeze for security researchers to crack it. Another problem was that some devices allowed for the copying of the password hash off the device, making it possible to crack it away from the drive in question.

In some instances, the Western Digital firmware itself was vulnerable to attack, though this and other problems were less prevalent in newer versions of the drives.

Although this isn’t necessarily an indication of every external drive with automated encryption being poorly protected, it does suggest that claims of high-security on such devices should be taken with a pinch of salt. For those wanting true protection, full-disk encryption is still a much safer bet.

Gaming

I'm canceling my backlog for Apex Legends. Be back never

Live service games like Fortnite and Apex Legends are eating up everyone's time, leaving other games out in the cold. While my backlog continues to grow, it seems the gaming industry is struggling to keep up as well.
Computing

Use one of these password managers to help protect yourself online

The internet can be a scary place, especially if you don't have a proper password manager. This guide will show you the best password managers you can get right now, including both premium and free options.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: ‘High Flying Bird,’ ‘White Dragon,’ and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: High Flying Bird, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, and more.
Computing

Switch your WMA files for MP3s with our quick conversion tips

The WMA codec may be great when it comes to multi-channel surround sound, but unfortunately, it falters in terms of compatibility. Check out our guide on how to convert WMA files to MP3 via web-based or desktop methods.
Computing

Looking for a new laptop? These 5 notebooks are on sale through Presidents’ Day

If you're ready to ditch your aging notebook, you can score some fantastic Presidents' Day savings right now on Microsoft's Surface Pro 6, Dell's XPS 13, HP's Spectre x360, Lenovo's Yoga C930, and Dell's G5 15 Gaming laptops.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.
Computing

Windows is getting a face-lift in 2020, but you can get a sneak peek right now

Microsoft is increasing the lead time for an upcoming major update to Windows 10, giving Windows Insiders the ability to test it right now, even though it's not set for release until 2020.
Computing

These Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts will take your skills to a new level

Windows 10 has many new features, and they come flanked with useful new keyboard shortcuts. Check out some of the new Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts to improve your user experience and save more time!
Computing

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Here's how the impressive A.I. works.
Deals

The best Presidents’ Day sales 2019: Amazon, Walmart, Dell, and more

Presidents' Day sales are a great chance to score electronics, clothing, home and office stuff, and other goodies at a discount. We’ve smoked out a large handful of the best of these Presidents' Day deals, from tech to bedding, to help…
Deals

Keep your MacBook safe and dry with an Under Armour backpack for under $50

Under Armour is having a huge sale this weekend to help you on your quest for a better backpack. The UA Outlet Exclusive sale is going on now through Monday, February 18th, offering great discounts on stormproof backpacks.
Deals

Walmart Presidents’ Day sale: Instant Pot, Google Home, and 4K TV deals

Presidents' Day weekend is one of the best times of the year to find deep discounts on 4K TVs, laptops, Instant Pots, clothes, mattresses, and furniture. And Walmart is offering deals on all of those things and more.
Computing

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.