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Condensing Your Life on to a USB Flash Drive?

Cliff posted about 9 years ago | from the what-to-take-and-what-to-put-it-on-to dept.

Data Storage 888

Fear the Clam asks: "My wife and I figure that if we plan for the worst, it'll never happen, so we've been putting together 'If public transportation bites it and we have two minutes to grab our stuff and start walking, never to return to NYC' getaway knapsacks. With luck they'll live in the closet forever. Coincidently, this morning the New York Times has an article about what to take when you have to leave home in a big hurry [DNA verification required], and they suggest making a list of all of things like Social Security and credit card numbers, scanning birth certificates, marriage license and tax returns, and saving it all on a USB flash drive. Since this would be a complete identity kit, encryption is of utmost importance. What's the best solution? A flash drive that claims to encrypt or a platform-independent, self-extracting, encrypted file on a regular drive? Any suggestions for sturdy drives?" Of course, the choice of USB flash drive covers only a part of the problem. What other data would you put on this piece of "contingency hardware", and how would you protect the drive itself in case you did have to "swim for it"?

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I'd take a backup of my backup. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709266)

I've had three USB Flash Drives (Lexar, and two Sandisks) die on me, usually under a year, presumably a byproduct of the limited writes available to NAND memory.

Re:I'd take a backup of my backup. (2, Insightful)

Doppler00 (534739) | about 9 years ago | (#13709321)

I doubt that. There isn't enough bandwidth on the USB port to write the ammount of data that would kill the flash memory. It's more likely to be mechanical failure of components.

Re:I'd take a backup of my backup. (5, Interesting)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | about 9 years ago | (#13709341)

Fujifilm. I just had one of those suckers go through the washing machine a while back. Still works.

Re:I'd take a backup of my backup. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709394)

Linux is *not* user friendly, and until it is linux will stay with >1% marketshare. Take installation. Linux zealots are now saying "oh installing is so easy, just do apt-get install package or emerge package": Yes, because typing in "apt-get" or "emerge" makes so much more sense to new users than double-clicking an icon that says "setup". Linux zealots are far too forgiving when judging the difficultly of Linux configuration issues and far too harsh when judging the difficulty of Windows configuration issues. Example comments: User: "How do I get Quake 3 to run in Linux?" Zealot: "Oh that's easy! If you have Redhat, you have to download quake_3_rh_8_i686_010203_glibc.bin, then do chmod +x on the file. Then you have to su to root, make sure you type export LD_ASSUME_KERNEL=2.2.5 but ONLY if you have that latest libc6 installed. If you don't, don't set that environment variable or the installer will dump core. Before you run the installer, make sure you have the GL drivers for X installed. Get them at [some obscure web address], chmod +x the binary, then run it, but make sure you have at least 10MB free in /tmp or the installer will dump core. After the installer is done, edit /etc/X11/XF86Config and add a section called "GL" and put "driver nv" in it. Make sure you have the latest version of X and Linux kernel 2.6 or else X will segfault when you start. OK, run the Quake 3 installer and make sure you set the proper group and setuid permissions on quake3.bin. If you want sound, look here [link to another obscure web site], which is a short HOWTO on how to get sound in Quake 3. That's all there is to it!" User: "How do I get Quake 3 to run in Windows?" Zealot: "Oh God, I had to install Quake 3 in Windoze for some lamer friend of mine! God, what a fucking mess! I put in the CD and it took about 3 minutes to copy everything, and then I had to reboot the fucking computer! Jesus Christ! What a retarded operating system!" So, I guess the point I'm trying to make is that what seems easy and natural to Linux geeks is definitely not what regular people consider easy and natural. Hence, the preference towards Windows.

Re:I'd take a backup of my backup. (1)

edsterino (742447) | about 9 years ago | (#13709419)

Name brand USB flash drives should have at least 100,000 writes per block with the "extreme" types being much higher. This plus the fact that they all use "wear leveling" to spread the writes across the card (even if writing to the same logical location) means you should get a pile of writes out of them.

USB drives usually die from being dropped or being banged around. A natural result of their size and portability.

Re:I'd take a backup of my backup. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709423)

I deal with the write issue on a regular basis. We used to use flash for embedded systems but the annual replacement of flash drives got excessive. We now use microdrives, which have an actual spinning media drive in them.

If you're looking for a backup solution for your family data, organize your files in a competent manner (so it is comprehensive and well organized), and then develop a routine to write monthly CDs off. We dump two to CD, one of which goes to the bank safety deposit box (in a town 30 miles from here where I work), and the other gets dropped off at my folks. We keep their own backup as well. Mine is encrypted (theirs isn't since they're not that sophisticated and don't care).

Works like a champ and was tested once already when my home workstation died and needed data recovery. Damn cheap-assed capacitors leaked on the motherboard...

*flyover sam*
(I'd post under my sig but there's nothing like a Slashdot stalker to change your interest in karma)

Living in the other target city (DC) (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709267)

My philosophy is that if DC is in such shape that I can never return, I really don't care about carrying around any personl data or very much anything else other than my life. We were having a discussion at work about whether our web backups could survive a nuclear attack... but if there's a nuclear attack, our website is the least of my concerns.

Re:Living in the other target city (DC) (5, Funny)

JabberWokky (19442) | about 9 years ago | (#13709348)

I made the CFO of a major insurance company chuckle when I pointed out during the disaster recovery committee meeting, as the backup and data storage company made their pitch (involving their "nuclear blast proof vaults"), that when the competition started lobbing warheads at us I would tender my resignation.


If there's a (thermo)nuclear attack... (1)

reality-bytes (119275) | about 9 years ago | (#13709364)

If there's a thermonuclear attack (classical nuclear war type) then your website, computer, usb thumbdrive etc should be the least of your worries.

Even if your many miles from g-zero the EMP from the airburst will pretty much write-off all your solid-state gear.

I'd think about stocking up the bits to build a vac tube radio (assuming anyone at the transmitting end has simmilar brains).

Re:Living in the other target city (DC) (2, Insightful)

ThaFooz (900535) | about 9 years ago | (#13709388)

My philosophy is that if DC is in such shape that I can never return, I really don't care about carrying around any personl data or very much anything else other than my life

Indeed. Besides, any (unforseen) situation that would render a major metro area uninhabitable probably means you aren't getting out alive anyways. If New Orleans couldn't be properly evacuated with several days notice, getting out of the beltway would be pretty damn tough. New York would be impossible.

What's the best solution? (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | about 9 years ago | (#13709268)


Re:What's the best solution? (4, Informative)

jmcharry (608079) | about 9 years ago | (#13709373)

Since this is the sort of thing one isn't likely to think about often, and digital archives tend to deteriorate or become obsolete, paper is a good bet, but make it acid free bond, and store it in acid free covers. There should be a second, similar, copy far enough away that a single event is not likely to take out both. This should be good for well over a lifetime.

They tend to be pretty tough (5, Informative)

Helios1182 (629010) | about 9 years ago | (#13709269)

Most USB drives are pretty tough. I would make a copy or two and put it in a crush/water proof case like an Otterbox.

Re:They tend to be pretty tough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709314)

No encryption needed if your USB flash drive has a form factor identical to a M1911A1 grip panel. If they're man enough to take it, they deserve it.

Re:They tend to be pretty tough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709428)

Personally I want something with more than 7 rounds in the magazine.

Re:They tend to be pretty tough (1)

Ohm2k (262274) | about 9 years ago | (#13709377)

I have a sandisk minicruzer that I keep in my pocket. If I leave it there when my wife is on a laundry rampage it gets puts through the washer AND dryer. Mine has been throuh no less than a dozen of these cycles and is still going strong.

Best idea (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709270)

Stick the flash drive up your ass, unless you live in san francisco.

Re:Best idea (1)

a11 (716827) | about 9 years ago | (#13709368)

thumbs up to that comment. ughh... my thumbs smell funny.

Ho ho ho (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709271)

Ho ho ho First Post. Yeah!

heh (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709274)

screw Social Security, they're going bankrupt anyway... on my emergency flash drive it's all about the pr0n.

Make up a song about it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709277)

A campy folks-like song where you sing out all your stuff. Then put it on your ipod under "shitty band noone has ever heard of".

Security (5, Funny)

b00tleg (603482) | about 9 years ago | (#13709278)

I always swallow my USB identity drives

Re:Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709353)

Why does the name iPood come to mind?

oops! (1)

DeckerDel (914516) | about 9 years ago | (#13709280)

Flash Drive for a Flash flood? Lovely!

If it had to swim (1)

phiberhack (717324) | about 9 years ago | (#13709286)

Wrap it in plastic

Re:If it had to swim (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709346)

Two words: ziplock bag.

I put my wallet in one on rafting trips. And nary a trouble I've had, despite one two good dunkings.

That might not last hours underwater, but for long-term storage I'd use one of those vacuum-seal gizmos, which would basically be water-right until you tore it open.

Encryption (5, Insightful)

PsychicX (866028) | about 9 years ago | (#13709288)

As far as encryption goes, for god's sake don't rely on anything the manufacturers ship. That stuff is meant to protect you from your average luser seeing files, not anybody who is honestly interested. Use Blowfish or Twofish for proper 2 way encryption.

If you're swimming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709289)

Make sure the drive is waterproof

Re:If you're swimming... (2, Informative)

Red Alastor (742410) | about 9 years ago | (#13709376)

I forgot my USB drive in my pocket before washing my pants once. It survived without any problem. :)

alternate plan (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709290)

Tatoo yourself in reeealy reealy little 1's and 0's. Tatoo your wife with the decryption key.

Brute forcing... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709317)

Tatoo your wife with the decryption key.

Just watch out for people trying to "brute force" your wife.

stick it on the web (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709292)

I have that stuff hanging off some files on my vanity domain web site. When I catch my breath, I can find a cybercafe and grab what I may need. There's always that garbage-mail project by that "only doing a little evil" big corporation on some property tax free land in Cali if you don't trust your own hosting company.

Re:stick it on the web (2, Insightful)

TGK (262438) | about 9 years ago | (#13709352)

Meant partly in jest to be sure, but not a bad idea overall. Gmail provides a hell of a lot of (presumably) RAIDed to hell and back storage. That said, it's also probably stored somewhere in San Fransisco... so if you live there, that probably isn't your best bet.

If you live in New York though, it's a good alternitive. The only kind of problems that I can think of that would make you need to flee New York and make data stored in San Fransisco irretreivable are the sort of problems after which you don't need your identity anyway.

Re:stick it on the web (2, Interesting)

Aradorn (750787) | about 9 years ago | (#13709435)

they have a Data center in ATL and one in Virginia (IIRC)

Maybe it's just me, but (4, Interesting)

bobertfishbone (897122) | about 9 years ago | (#13709293)

Wouldn't accepting scanned documents of identification open many a door for counterfeiters and scam artists, and even, dare I say, potential terrorists? *Raises terror alert to mauve*

Depends on your priorities (3, Funny)

HungWeiLo (250320) | about 9 years ago | (#13709297)

You can store 5 minutes DV-quality porn on a 1GB stick.

If you are a man of questionable tolerance and determination, I suggest you use some kind of compression.

Oh - you mean like a "real real" drought or some other real natural disaster? Oh sorry.

(Goes back to work)

Re:Depends on your priorities (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 9 years ago | (#13709338)

You can store 5 minutes DV-quality porn on a 1GB stick.

If you are a man of questionable tolerance and determination, I suggest you use some kind of compression.

As if DV doesn't already involve some kind of compression?

OMG! The sky is falling! (5, Informative)

Brent Spiner (919505) | about 9 years ago | (#13709298)

Well if your going to be all paranoid, you might as well get one of these. []

Re:OMG! The sky is falling! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709382)

I bet some guy has one of them and goes to bars trying to convince women the end is nigh.

The guy who grabs your USB key chain... (1)

nokilli (759129) | about 9 years ago | (#13709299)

...bypasses your 128-bit encryption by putting a knife to your sweetheart's throat and demands the passphrase, or else.

You give it.

End of story.
You didn't know. []

Re:The guy who grabs your USB key chain... (5, Interesting)

tonyz2k (178027) | about 9 years ago | (#13709349)

That's why you should use the plausible deniability built into TrueCrypt. Giving the attacker the password to the outer volume (who has been robbed at knifepoint for a USB memory device? that'll be the day..), and they still still have no idea an entire volume of your real data is hiding in the noise that is the freespace of the aforementioned outer volume. the outer volume needs to be FAT and it can have innocuous stuff on there like fake financial documents.. Enjoy [] !

Re:The guy who grabs your USB key chain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709358)

Re:The guy who grabs your USB key chain... (1)

jrockway (229604) | about 9 years ago | (#13709362)

Then he goes back to his computer several miles away and realizes that you gave him a fake passphrase. 128-bit encryption wins again.

Re:The guy who grabs your USB key chain... (1)

kinzillah (662884) | about 9 years ago | (#13709420)

He asks you the passphrase, then cuts off one of her fingers...

then he asks again.

Re:The guy who grabs your USB key chain... (3, Funny)

shmergin (679427) | about 9 years ago | (#13709386)

You realise that you are posting on slashdot? "OK take it! Just don't puncture blow up betty!"

PGP (4, Interesting)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about 9 years ago | (#13709301) your friend. Don't trust the key vendor's utility. PGP can be accessed from any platform and isn't Win32-specific as the vendor's software is.

hmm... (0, Redundant)

gcnaddict (841664) | about 9 years ago | (#13709302)

What would I put onto a USB flash drive in case of an emergency?


GLQuake ^_^

Linus Torvalds' Solution (4, Funny)

isny (681711) | about 9 years ago | (#13709303)

Upload it to the internet and let the world mirror it.

Re:Linus Torvalds' Solution (1, Offtopic)

mikelieman (35628) | about 9 years ago | (#13709350)

That's a joke, but when Google releases their beta of their filesystem in some distant future...

a) Application Deployment as we know it will end....

b) Storage Management as we know it will end...

c) You won't need to be Linus to benefit.

Please, Dear Lord, Let me live to see the day!

Re:Linus Torvalds' Solution (3, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 9 years ago | (#13709390)

Actually that is not that bad of an idea.
Encrypt it and send it to your gmail account, your Yahoo briefcase, and maybe your hotmail account. Not to mention storing it on your USB drive.
BTW your best bet for security for your USB drive is physical security. If you are really worried about someone taking it carry a spare full of fake data.

Re:Linus Torvalds' Solution (1)

mikelieman (35628) | about 9 years ago | (#13709421)

BTW your best bet for security for your USB drive is physical security. If you are really worried about someone taking it carry a spare full of fake data.

google://rubberhose cryptography

hrm.... (2, Insightful)

Aradorn (750787) | about 9 years ago | (#13709304)

Sounds like a really good business to start up. An online place where you can store personal information on protected servers. Have everything encrpyted when its uploaded and stored on servers. Then to retrieve the information you have to call or something. er well it sounded like a good idea at first =)

Computer Acess? (5, Insightful)

dclaw (593370) | about 9 years ago | (#13709305)

Would it not be better to simply keep a set of laminated copies of all those documents? In the case that you don't have access to a computer when you need it? There isn't always going to be a Kinko's or internet cafe nearby when you're in the midst of a terrorist attack or natural disaster the magnitude of which you are speaking.

Re:Computer Acess? (2, Insightful)

Sometimes_Rational (866083) | about 9 years ago | (#13709412)

If they want my laptop, they'll have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

If somehow that manages to get lost, anyone who is going to offer assistance that would require proof of identity is going to have a reasonably late-model computer with USB ports.

As for laminated copies, they have no security at all, and when you think of the stuff you'd need, you could
carry dozens of USB drives more conveniently. In fact, that's a good idea--having several drives with the info would provide a good level of redundancy.

Encrypt it first (1)

yack0 (2832) | about 9 years ago | (#13709309)

Encrypt it with your existing GPG/PGP keys, then move it to the drive. Most of the encrypted drives these days aren't that great. You'd also not have to worry about any proprietary software with you for the decryption.

Keeping your private GPG key would be useful - perhaps another drive? Perhaps on paper?

I like the idea of the USB drive for paperwork though, good addition to the EOTWAWKI (end of the world as we know it) scenario.

Or.... (5, Funny)

cdn2k1 (908657) | about 9 years ago | (#13709310)

You could kill two birds with one stone, and get an iPod. That way you will not only have all of your important stuff, but you'll be able to groove to some sweet tunes while looting and pillaging.

Re:Or.... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709345)

while looting and pillaging

"Searching for food," if you're white.

And always remember... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709437)

First pillage, THEN burn!

AES encrypted disk image (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709311)

I use an AES encrypted disk image on my USB flash drive. I used Disk Utility on Mac OS X 10.4 to create it. VERY easy. To insure security, I used a really long password. b1llg4t3s4ndm0nk3yb0y5uck

Why save it locally at all? (4, Interesting)

thisissilly (676875) | about 9 years ago | (#13709312)

Why not just email all that to yourself in a gmail account? Holds 2.5GB and counting, and you can get to it from anywhere. No need to worry about taking it along with you.

Re:Why save it locally at all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709405)

And what happens when it's Google that's taking over the city? I think that's probably the most likely scenario that would lead people to evacuate a place like New York...

Re:Why save it locally at all? (5, Interesting)

Chimera512 (910750) | about 9 years ago | (#13709409)

because in the event of a "leave nyc forever" caliber event, you have no idea where the hell google's gmail servers are geographically. and then google has all your personal data. that seems like a pretty terrible idea from a security standpoint, even if it is encrypted. nothing's completely unbreakable. if you're leaving on foot, take paper copies of everything, tape it to your chests so your bodies could theoretically be ID'ed if you were to die (we're talking hyptohetically, lets go all the way) i'd be way more worreid about water purification, food, and the ability to cover enough ground on foot to get away form the disaster before you run out of food and water. if you're a typical person i don't htink you're going to be doing more then 20 miles a day with plenty of food, and that's being generous. do you have shelter? i'd suggest a water proof pack from granite gear that weighs 1.5 pounds without anything in it. that's what i'm brining when the shit hits the fan and we're all dead.

Re:Why save it locally at all? (1)

guard952 (768434) | about 9 years ago | (#13709411)

Until you can't find a computer with power and internet access.

Boom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709313)

In the event that another major American city is destroyed I doubt having all of your data on USB will be enough.

Life on a USB drive (2, Informative)

springbox (853816) | about 9 years ago | (#13709318)

Consider putting it on a tough drive. I personally use the Cruzer Titanium [] . It's made from a light weight "space age" metal unlike most cheapo thin or thick plastic drives. "Crush force exceeds 2000 lbs" they claim.

Also for my private data, I have a TrueCrypt [] volume on the drive so that in case someone gets their hands on it, my not so public data will be safe.

If you're actually intending to put your LIFE on it though also consider a backup strategy so you won't lose everything when your drive falls off your keychain and into the sewer where it's eaten by technologically advanced rodents.

Re:Life on a USB drive (1)

black6host (469985) | about 9 years ago | (#13709347)

These are quite sturdy. Mine lives on my bikes key ring and that's my only transportation rain or shine. 60 MPH, pouring rain, and the sucker just works. Been out in the elements for damn near a year now and still going strong.


Global Secret Distribution (0, Flamebait)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 9 years ago | (#13709322)

Encrypt a blob of the data with a long passphrase on a PC, then store the scrambled blob on a thumbdrive. Then make 5 or more copies and send them to people around the world, preferably relatives, along with $20 each to cover return postage (to wherever you happen to land). Make sure to update the blobs every year or two to ensure the ID data is mostly current. Thumbdrives are cheap - rebuilding your identity after Katrina or some other Bush "oops" is much more expensive.

Re:Global Secret Distribution (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709426)

Bush summoned up a hurricane! Too bad he can't run again or he'd have my vote for sure.

Re:Global Secret Distribution (0, Offtopic)

ScentCone (795499) | about 9 years ago | (#13709448)

Thumbdrives are cheap - rebuilding your identity after Katrina or some other Bush "oops" is much more expensive.

Yes, yes, because the people in, say... Gulfport, MS, who watched their homes and businesses get scraped off their foundations by storm surge have Bush to blame? Come on, is that really helpful (even a little)? It definitely doesn't make your other perfectly good ideas seem any more credible. You can do better than that. Unless the sailors who died on the Cole without having mailing databackups to their families were the subject to a "Clinton oops." Or people who lost it all to Hurrican Floyd in South Carolina - Clinton oopses? It's just silly, man - you're usually less gratuitous than that.

Encrypted files (1)

someguy456 (607900) | about 9 years ago | (#13709324)

I ran into this easy to follow tutorial on setting up encrypted filesystems under linux, including virtual drives through loopback, and also entire devices/partitions/mount points: ypt []

Use Truecrypt for encryption (2, Informative)

Faxmaster (320252) | about 9 years ago | (#13709326)

Use Truecrypt ( It's free, open source, and extremely secure (AES, Blowfish, CAST5, Serpent, Triple DES, and Twofish). I use it on my thumbdrive to backup all of my important data.

Cloned start-up drive (3, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | about 9 years ago | (#13709329)

I've cloned my start-up drive and all my files onto a 250 GB firewire drive (and several bare IDE HDs stashed in strategic locations). Given that I can order a new computer by 2 AM Eastern and have it delivered the same morning, I can be back in business in no time. I like cloned drives because you can retain all the OS and user preferences.

Re:Cloned start-up drive (1)

mikelieman (35628) | about 9 years ago | (#13709365)

Full Backups, and tested Bare Metal Restores?


What, don't you crave "Excitement"?

USB Stick (1)

patrickclay (898576) | about 9 years ago | (#13709331)

I hope you don't plan on copying [] the information once it's put on your flash card... :)

Flash secondary Pack a weapon you know how to use (0, Offtopic)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 years ago | (#13709334)

You live in NYC (your masters don't allow you guns without seeing the city proctologist first).

Which norrows your choices of weapons.

Perhaps a sling (if you have the time to practice).

I'm not sure about the legal status of black powder in NYC.

I'm also not sure about you status as a law abider, should you be on the smart side I'd suggest something in forty cal.

Re:Flash secondary Pack a weapon you know how to u (1)

Ironsides (739422) | about 9 years ago | (#13709434)

I'm also not sure about you status as a law abider, should you be on the smart side I'd suggest something in forty cal.

22s may not have the stopping power of a 45. However, it's easier for people to shoot, with less recoil than a 45 most people, even small women, can shoot it repeatedly without resting. Also the gun itself is lighter. You can still get them in semi-auto with >=10 round clips. And from the point of the attacker, the are just as deadly; assuming they aren't wearing armor (in which case you are generally screwed either way unless you can do a headshot in which it really makes no difference).

contents (5, Informative)

egburr (141740) | about 9 years ago | (#13709356)

Here's what I can think of off the top of my head...

Social Security cards
Driver's licenses
Recent photos, head only and full body (clothed!)
Contact info of relatives, friends
Vehicle registration
Birth certificates
Wedding license
Property deeds
Living will
Account and contact information: banks, credit cards, utilities, insurance (health, house, car), mortgages, loans

Another item for the kit... (-1, Offtopic)

BobandMax (95054) | about 9 years ago | (#13709359)

...would be a .45 Auto along with the knowledge, skill and will to use it. Doesn't the scenario described presuppose a degree of anarchy? Let's learn from what we saw in New Orleans and put our lives and those of our loved ones ahead of the unconstitutional, draconian laws of NYC.

Re:Another item for the kit... (1)

mikelieman (35628) | about 9 years ago | (#13709395)

I'm sorry to hear you live in NYC, were even such a *sensible* choice of a Winchester Lever in .38/.357 requires permitting and suchlike.

I'm a big fan of that caliber in lever actions, btw... 50 round boxes are cheap ( unlike deer calibers ) and it's still pretty dang useful for holding off the savages...

Waterproof Flash Drive -Amazing New Technology (1)

pyro_peter_911 (447333) | about 9 years ago | (#13709372)

How would you protect the flash drive if you had to swim for it? There's this cool new waterproofing technology called the ziploc bag. This technology can also give flash drives a positive buoyancy, just in case _it_ has to swim for it and leave your foundering ass behind.


Safe Deposit Box? (4, Insightful)

LlamaDragon (97577) | about 9 years ago | (#13709374)

Technology isn't the answer to everything. Why not just take your important stuff, or good copies of said stuff, and put it in a safe deposit box? Then you just have to take your key with you when you run out of your house. And even if you lose your key, they can drill it open for a (hefty) fee.

Really, why make it so complex by trying to put everything on USB drive and trying to figure out what encryption's best and scanning everything and...and...and... It's a waste of time.

Expect Murphy's Law (1)

CheeseTroll (696413) | about 9 years ago | (#13709381)

if we plan for the worst, it'll never happen

I know it's terribly superstitious, but this is an excellent mindset to be in when you're in a position of responsibility (especially when you're feeling somewhat lazy). After all, the thing that goes wrong always seems to be the thing you forgot to plan for, or deliberately ignored, right?

I like TrueCrypt... (5, Informative)

jbarr (2233) | about 9 years ago | (#13709383)

It's for Windows only, but I stumbled upon TrueCrypt found at [] and really like it. And it's not only useful for USB drives, but can be used to create encrypted logical drives on a Hard Drive. For the really paranoid, the documentation even covers lots of stealthy ways to use it so as not to be detected.

I'm certainly no expert at encryption, but it seems pretty solid. Basically, it creates an encrypted container file and then mounts it as a logical drive when you open the file through the app. I've seen commercial counterparts such as StealthDisk, and I think TrueCrypt's interface is easier to use and its execution is more solid.

It's OSS and free as in beer and as in speech.


NanoGator (522640) | about 9 years ago | (#13709384)

I'm a 3D artist. My resume is my demo reel. As a result, I keep all the work I've done (i.e. 3D objects, textures, animations, etc..) plus I have uncompressed .AVIs I can quickly compose a demo reel of. There are gigabytes of info here. I have to keep that data around. If my apartment was suddenly destroyed, I'd be in trouble. So, yeah, I want to keep that data around and today a flash drive (today) won't do it. So what am I to do? Well, these recent hurricanes have me thinking about this problem. Newegg has USB 2.0 enclosures for laptop drives. For $100ish, you can get an 80 gig laptop drive. If you have about $120 to spend, this may not be a bad alternative for those with gigs of data they don't want to lose. I'm actually kicking around the idea of packaging one up and sending it to my family. They live in another state so it's unlikely we'd both have our homes wiped out. For somebody in my position.. well actually I should start on that tonight.

I've been putting together a similar kit... (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | about 9 years ago | (#13709385)

But in mine, I put laminated copies of those documents, or in the case of the passport, it's in dual plastic baggies. I'd hate to be in a setting like the N.O. Superdome and have to say, does anyone have a computer that I can copy my electronic data onto?

No thanks. Some things are too important for that.

Now, for the post-crisis management phase, it makes perfect sense - assuming your usb keychain drive survives the journey back to your parents' house.

Re:I've been putting together a similar kit... (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | about 9 years ago | (#13709430)

Oh yeah, as to some of the information you should take:

VIN numbers, jewelry serial numbers, serial numbers of any insured items, etc..

Also, you might want to include important phone numbers - many people these days don't memorize important numbers, they just store them blindly in their cell phones. I'd include, family numbers, insurance company phone numbers, local hospital phone numbers, etc.

You also need personal information: Blood Types of yourself and your spouse/kids; social security numbers, etc.

Why a flash drive? (2, Informative)

Wonko (15033) | about 9 years ago | (#13709396)

they suggest making a list of all of things like Social Security and credit card numbers, scanning birth certificates, marriage license and tax returns, and saving it all on a USB flash drive.

Why not just use a CD (full size, or 180 meg)? They are cheaper and more durable than a flash drive. Before I had my new, larger, flash drive I used to carry a 50 meg business card CD in my wallet. It would have to be replaced every 3-6 months from being repeatedly sat on :). I would imagine they would hold up better outside of the pocket, though :).

Since this would be a complete identity kit, encryption is of utmost importance. What's the best solution? A flash drive that claims to encrypt or a platform-independent, self-extracting, encrypted file on a regular drive?

I wouldn't use the software that comes with the drive. If I were doing this I would use GNU Privacy Guard. You should probably store the key in a safe location far away from home, and preferably with a strong passphrase.

Any suggestions for sturdy drives?

I currently have a PQI I-Stick [] . I have only had it about a year so far and I haven't doen anything stupid with it yet. It mostly just sits in my wallet in its little wallet case. I very much prefer keeping my flash drive in my wallet as opposed to my keychain. I also like that the little wallet insert will hold two drive. The only thing I dislike is that the wallet holder is so much thicker than the drive.

What other data would you put on this piece of "contingency hardware",

I have all of my revision control repositories mirrored to my flash drive and also any documentation or notes that I write. That is basically everything that I created myself and would have to do work to replace.

how would you protect the drive itself in case you did have to "swim for it"?

I would probably make sure the data was out of town before I was. Most of this data either doesn't change often (credit card numbers), or it never changes (SSN, birth certificates). Encrypt it, put it on some media of some sort, and send it out of town. Most people probably have friends or family living out of town that they can trust, send it to them. If this is not an option for you, you can probably get a box at a bank out of town I suppose...

paper & data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709397)

Having just gone through this with Hurricane Rita, I filled a duffel bag with all the pertinent hard copies and emailed all my data files and insurance pictures to my own Gmail account.

Well (1)

carguy84 (897052) | about 9 years ago | (#13709398)

I wrap my USB Flash Drive in bubble gum, then swallow it...saves for 7 years right inside me. Then when it digests, lather, rinse, repeat. Chip-

Use Lexar jumpdrive Secure (1)

nydanceboy (708980) | about 9 years ago | (#13709403)

I am already doing what you describe: credit
cards, passport, green card, tax documents
are all scanned and stored in this encrypted
flash drive. It's cheap and more importantly
it is platform independent and works on Windows, Mac and most importantly for slashdotters: Linux.

Ask Jason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13709404)

Put a complete set of identifying documents on microfilm, and embed it under your skin. Doesn't even have to be your identity, as long as it's complete.

Just don't go to the Mediterranean is all.

Lots of missing information... (3, Informative)

rcbarnes (875915) | about 9 years ago | (#13709414)

How immediate is the need for access to the information? The stronger the solution, the slower the access for the most part. Something that needs to be immediately accessable will need to be bundled with proper decryption tools (assume nothing better than Windows 95 will be available) on-stick.

Also related: what operating system are you using? Under Linux, you could use a loopback encrypted filesystem, for example, but under windows such would not be viable.

Are we assuming that the computer will be destroyed, or that we need to stick to a pure-RAM access system to prevent residue on the hard drive from being intercepted?

Are you willing to trust a corperate product for ease-of-use concerns?

Finally, how are you securing your original documents? Might it just be as easy to grab an organized safe-box as keep all the digital security on a digital form? Keep in mind that only origial copies are good for anything beyond having a reference point to start receiveing replacement copies of your stuff.

One more thing: How much of this is overkill? Keep in mind how cheap and simple it is to acquire copies of an arbitrary person's complete identifying information (I often see ways to do it under two hundred dollars, including original copies of all the usual certificates and plastic cards, which would cost less for a professional). A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and in this case, with just some reasonable precaution, the path of least cost and difficulty is through more common means of aqusition than stealing a thumbdrive.

NYT full of it (0, Flamebait)

UziBeatle (695886) | about 9 years ago | (#13709417)

  I know on my birth certificate it states in plain black and white that photo copies are ILLEGAL. Simply put, in most cases, documents of this sort must be original and stamped to be legit. ANy copies are useless junk.

    I know for a fact that if you try to get a passport using a photo copied birth certificate they just toss it out. Hell, for all I know you probably end up on a suspect list for trying to pass illigitamate documentation.

    To sum up, ignore most anything you read from the New York Times. NYT is not a legit news source nor reliable. They have proven that time and again.

why not gmail? (1)

sdedeo (683762) | about 9 years ago | (#13709429)

Why bother with a flash USB when you can just gmail the material to yourself? If you're paranoid, encrypt it beforehand, but I doubt someone who broke into google is going to poke inside your PDF attachments. Come on, someone must have said it already? Mod me redundant!

Hmmm.. (1)

Kuku_monroe (753761) | about 9 years ago | (#13709431)

What would Batman put in his Bat-usb-flash-drive?

Why not make another backup on CD/DVD? (1)

root_dev_X (100095) | about 9 years ago | (#13709432)

If you're really worried about durability, why not make a back up onto a CD-R/DVD-R in addition to your USB drive? They won't fry from static or water exposure, and they're arguably more compatible with PCs (despite the utter ubiquity of the USB drive, you'd be suprised at how many legacy PCs are still rattling around sans USB... especially in lower-level government offices - the sort of place where may someday need to prove your identity).

I can personally attest to having fried more than one USB flash drive from static buildup alone - enough miles in your pocket or bag with the protective cap off (which unfortunately happens rather frequently) will totally junk the drive. Nevermind the fact that the drives can be pretty fragile - doesn't take much to crush them or damage their USB interface.

Granted, the CD-R/DVD-R solution isn't perfect. They break, they scratch. But they're definately a worthwhile backup plan for your backup plan. I mean, if your whole aim is to build a universal contingency plan, then it doesn't make much sense to put all your eggs into one (semi-volatile and fragile) basket.

I wouldn't worry too hard (1)

Cave_Monster (918103) | about 9 years ago | (#13709438)

FTA ...catches on fire or comes tumbling down in an earthquake?

I certainly wouldn't be wondering what I should be taking in these instances. I would be more concerned with ensuring the lives of my family and myself were safe. Government agencies, insurance companies, banks and other institutions have all your details on record anyway and shouldn't be too hard to reaquire in the event of a disaster or whatever. Sure you can store things on a USB drive, create photocopies and store them at the bank or any other multitude of methods to protect things but even then it's not always reliable. Those backups can get blown away aswell and then it was all for nothing. Not to mention, a lot of this information can change quite a lot during a lifetime and having to always update it is going to be a real pain, so in the event of a disaster where you have to make a run for it, your records may not be up to date.

You can't plan disasters so when you put off till tomorrow, updating your credit card numbers, a disaster will strike and you won't have your nice little backup as was intended.

I live in Canada (1)

baylanger (780885) | about 9 years ago | (#13709440)

If such a thing happen in Canada, imagine!!! No need to carry a flash USB drive, forget it! With our prime minister, I'm already dead.

Homeland Security has web site for you! (2, Informative)

rufusdufus (450462) | about 9 years ago | (#13709444)

Homeland security has a website called [] that has built a whole website about preparing for emergencies. They also have an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit [] that includes a nice form that consolidates all the personal information you might need in order to get financial services in an emergency.

After getting the basic emergency kit ready, fill out and print this form and put it in your kit. Then, encrypt it and put save on internet, maybe mail it to your gmail account.


Albert Pussyjuice (675113) | about 9 years ago | (#13709447)

Get a blender and a very strong tablesaw. You'll have to quickly chop your wife up into manageable parts for the blender. Seriously, if you try to carry her in some sort of duffle bag the weight will slow you down so much that you'll be trapped in the city and Muslims will explode themselves in your face.

You are welcome for this advice. In appreciation of this knowledge that I have given you, please FedEx me a mother-in-law milkshake. They really can't be beat tastewise and I have a feeling your mother-in-law will be especially tasty - given how pleasant your wife's pussy tastes.

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