Whether you’re trying to increase your security at an internet café, tunnel your way to your home computer from your cubicle, or leave no trace on your friend’s borrowed computer, a flash drive turned portable privacy toolkit is invaluable.
Flash drives are enormously handy for carting around files, taking portable applications with you, and serving as a mobile computing base when you’re away from home. They’re also excellent tools for increasing your privacy when you’re away from your home computer. Below I’ll point you toward methods of setting up secure connections with SSH and round up a few of your best options for SSH-friendly applications; then we’ll look into encrypting data, permanently erasing data, and otherwise covering your tracks on any machine you’re using.
Before we begin, a big fat disclaimer is in order. Working from a flash drive privacy toolkit, in most situations, is rife with compromises. There is no way to, for example, set up a totally bulletproof system for browsing privately and anonymously from work. You can dodge IT, you can encrypt and tunnel, you can worm your way around security measures, and you might even be able to do it without getting caught. Doing so is grounds for termination at many company, however, and the IT admins frown heavily on users who punch holes in the firewall. If you absolutely must alleviate the boredom of your workday by streaming music from your home PC or browsing “off record” from your office, your best bet is to bring a netbook and tether it to your cellphone so all your activity occurs completely off the company networks and remains undetectable by your corporate overlords.
All of that said, the following tricks and applications push the limits of what the humble flash drive and non-administrative rights can do. We know you’ll find more than a few tricks that will make life from your flash drive toolkit more secure and your computer activities more private.