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#105070 - 09/09/07 01:22 PM Documents for your Flash Drive(s)
bws48 Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/18/07
Posts: 831
Loc: Anne Arundel County, Maryland
Hello everyone,

First, a brief introduction. I presently live and work in Anne Arundel county, Maryland, but have lived and worked in various places in the U.S. and Europe, and traveled to many others. As you can see, I’m a “stranger” and have made just a few posts. I’m still working my way through past threads and learning the ropes.

This is my first attempt at opening a thread.

I have noticed a frequent recommendation to keep a flash drive with “important papers” and information on it. The few comments I have read don’t really cover what those “important papers” might be in any detail. So based on some harsh lessons, I thought I would try to put together a list for your consideration and thoughts. As pointed out in some earlier posts, an electronic copy may not be accepted as “official,” but it is better than nothing and can help show where to find the “real” copy (e.g. what county clerk’s office, etc.) is. I think most items on the list will be self-explanatory, but I’ll include a brief comment where I think it is helpful. I expect everyone realizes that you will need this for all family members and should have several flash drives in several places. Not all of these may be required, but at one time or another I have found the need to produce almost every one of them for myself or a family member.


Drivers License
Social Security Number
Birth Certificate
Travel visa if you need it to be where you are.
Permanent residency documents if necessary.
Naturalization Certificate—yes, if you have a U.S. passport it means you are a U.S. citizen. However, there are agencies of the U.S. Government that will not accept a U.S. passport as evidence of citizenship, e.g. Social Security. The naturalization document itself says “do not copy,” but these agencies require you to produce it and then they copy it. The copy on your drive (probably) will not satisfy them, but it does record the information as to when, where, what Court etc. citizenship was granted so that you or they can go back and get an “official” copy or verify naturalization if the original is unavailable.


Bank account numbers (including bank routing number) and bank toll free and your bank branch numbers.
Credit card numbers including the 3 digit security code on the back, and the toll free numbers to call them. (I dump the cards on the copier and copy front and back).

General Legal Documents:

Marriage Certificate
Divorce Decree
Trust documents
Adoption decrees
Power(s) of attorney
Deeds to real property
Title documents for vehicles
Vehicle registration


List of medical conditions and allergies
Special medical precautions required by medical personnel in treating the family member.
List of medications by brand name, generic name, and if possible, scientific name, dosage and schedule. (If abroad, the local physician/apothecary may not recognize a U.S. brand name or generic name.)
Three to four years of those laboratory reports your Doctor gets from blood and other bodily fluid tests.
Unfortunate personal experience on this one. After moving here, a routine test showed something “too high.” Turns out, the actual number on the test was less important than the year to year change. Guess who didn’t have copies of those old reports? Guess whose former Doctor’s office took a small portion of infinity to find and produce the old records? Everything turned out ok, but now we always ask for and get a copy of the lab results for ourselves and file them.

General Medical records from your Doctor (notes, etc.)
Advance directives for medical care.
Durable power of attorney for medical care.

Sorry if this list is too long, I kept thinking of things. I hope it proves useful.

---Bruce, aka bws48

"Better is the enemy of good enough."

#105071 - 09/09/07 01:27 PM Re: Documents for your Flash Drive(s) [Re: bws48]
Westwindmike Offline

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 48
Loc: Middle Tennessee
The main thing I would worry about, is if the flash drive got lost or stolen, somebody could really ruin your life with all that information. Is there an easy way to encrypt the info on the drive so that it couldn't be read by just anyone who "found" it?

#105072 - 09/09/07 01:40 PM Re: Documents for your Flash Drive(s) [Re: Westwindmike]
flinx Offline

Registered: 08/05/07
Posts: 9
Truecrypt or GNUPG would satisfy the security requirement for this information. Both programs are opensource. They run on all platforms and have been subject to peer review.



#105073 - 09/09/07 01:50 PM Re: Documents for your Flash Drive(s) [Re: flinx]
bws48 Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/18/07
Posts: 831
Loc: Anne Arundel County, Maryland
westwindmike has a valid point, and some of the more critical documents/folders should be encrypted. But some, like medical info, you may want to leave in the open, in case you are not conscious to give the appropriate passwords etc.
Like your credit cards/social security number, the physical security of the flash drive at all time is something to be aware of....
There is always a trade off. I used to work in a place where we used to say "we are so secure, we can't get anything done."
"Better is the enemy of good enough."

#105088 - 09/09/07 04:22 PM Flash Drive Integrity [Re: bws48]
JCWohlschlag Offline
Some guy who wandered in…
Old Hand

Registered: 11/26/06
Posts: 724
Loc: Dallas, Pennsylvania, United S...
Another important consideration is the structural integrity of the flash drive itself. I recently got a hard lesson about this as I discovered, after getting settled into my new residence in Pennsylvania, that my USB flash drive didn’t work any more. After taking it apart (and seeing that there’s no way in hell I could put it back together), I found a (power, I believe) wire broken off its connection to the mainboard.

So, I said goodbye to that flash drive. Fortunately, all of the data was a backup to data I store on my desktop and my laptop (and a backup DVD-R that’s in a box somewhere…), so I didn’t lose any data of any sort. I only lost my ability to pop that data into any ol’ computer I want and use my stuff.

Considering this recent disappointment, I have been looking into more robust flash drives as a replacement. I learned earlier on this board about the Corsair Flash Survivor/Survivor GT, which not only appears strong enough to survive every day carry, it seems just about bomb proof. There are other drive models available from Corsair, Sandisk, Lexar, etc., but this one seems to take the cake as it can withstand harsh outdoor environments and has absolutely no internal moving parts that could break.
“Hiking is just walking where it’s okay to pee. Sometimes old people hike by mistake.” — Demitri Martin

#105090 - 09/09/07 04:34 PM Flash Drive Encryption [Re: flinx]
JCWohlschlag Offline
Some guy who wandered in…
Old Hand

Registered: 11/26/06
Posts: 724
Loc: Dallas, Pennsylvania, United S...
I have been using TrueCrypt (freeware) and RoboForm (not freeware, but worth it… there are freeware alternatives) on my PCs and flash drives for quite a while. They both perform very well, and they compliment each other’s capabilities very well.

Whether to encrypt what data is a choice that is up to you, but I do know that many hospitals do not go rummaging through your flash drive in a medical emergency because 1) their IT policy is not to plug in unknown data sources to their network, 2) they do not have the time, and/or 3) they don’t know what they’re doing with a computer. (As a former IT support provider for hospitals and medical records, #3 is the case far more than I am comfortable with seeing as how these people are responsible for my health in many ways.)

For medical information availability, it may be much more prudent to carry a dedicated method such as a medical ID tag, card, or something of that sort. There are companies such as MedicAlert that can provide full information, including past medical records, to hospital staff when they need it without you having to be conscious. The benefits and comparisons of these dedicated methods are beyond the scope of this thread, however.
“Hiking is just walking where it’s okay to pee. Sometimes old people hike by mistake.” — Demitri Martin

#105119 - 09/09/07 09:22 PM Re: Flash Drive Encryption [Re: JCWohlschlag]
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2155
Loc: Bucks County PA
Let me chime in on this subject, and as a geek with a lot of love of technology, I'll suggest that a flash drive is NOT the first choice I'd make. I'd go with a CD or DVD ROM, or a small USB magnetic drive.

Also, as I've said before, until there's such a thing as a notarized computer storage device, you're not saving much time.

Finally, the whole "medical history on a key drive" fantasy, as pointed out, is just never going to happen in real life. I'm in "pre-pre-hospital care" (I stop the bleeding, try to keep you breathing and cut you out of the car wreck, I don't do IV's or anything like that. In all the times I've been to a trauma situation I've never - no not once, never, no never ever ever - seen an ambulance crew that even COULD plug in a keychain drive to anything (only the cops have computers and the USB ports on them are shut down except for registered devices). We look for medic-alert bracelets and tattoos, and that's it. Electronic data storage is too fragile, the formats to inconsistent and the security of that data totally impossible to maintain in today's world, and, I suspect it always will be.

Yes, we have a lot of cool technology, but the reality in medical situations is quite different from what you experience in an office.

Here's an example. When I broke my wrist last year, I needed to have the X-Rays from the ER for the osteopath. The ER was 100% digital, my X-Rays were never on film. But when it came time to see the Osteopath, who was affiliated with the hospital where I went to the ER, they had to make a print, and I had to pick up the print and bring it with me.

I even offered them my 2GB keychain drive at the ER and said "Just put the file on here" and they looked at me like I had offered them Anthrax Cola.

#105138 - 09/10/07 02:08 AM Re: Flash Drive Encryption [Re: MartinFocazio]
Dali Offline

Registered: 08/20/07
Posts: 2
For the truly security conscience take a look at the IronKey USB drive....hardware military-grade encryption, tamperproof, self-erase after 10 bad password attempts, waterproof, etc. If you pick a good password / passphrase your data should be very secure.

They offer a way to backup all data using the same encryption so you can securely backup data on the device / media of your choice and later restore it to a new device if needed. (They also offer password/passphrase escrow - if you lose or forget your password your data cannot be recovered.)

It doesn't require special drivers or installation of any type. When you insert it, a ROM-based application to unlock the drive runs. Enter your password, the drive unlocks and you have access to the data as well as a few applications. For example, a version of Firefox that surfs the web using special Tor servers that Ironkey provides is built-in. All the applications run without having to be installed similar to the portable app suite.


#105149 - 09/10/07 09:54 AM Re: Documents for your Flash Drive(s) [Re: bws48]
Frankie Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 09/19/03
Posts: 734
Loc: Montréal, Québec, Canada
You could add to your flash drive your personal emergency contact information: the addresses, telephone numbers and emails of all family members and relatives (the emails can sometimes get through when phone can't during a disaster) including if possible an out of state relative. Also include all area hospital addresses and phone numbers, the poison control center and police departements.


#105151 - 09/10/07 11:10 AM Re: Flash Drive Encryption [Re: Dali]

Originally Posted By: Dali
For the truly security conscience take a look at the IronKey USB drive....hardware military-grade encryption, tamperproof, self-erase after 10 bad password attempts, waterproof, etc. If you pick a good password / passphrase your data should be very secure.

A couple of things that send up warning flags for me regarding this product:

1) Claim of "military grade encryption"
There is no such thing as military grade encryption

2) No source code for per review.
Any encyption software developer with any credibility will release the encryption routines for peer review. Nothing on the website about this.

3)"FIPS 140-2 compliant"
Huge difference between being FIPS 140-2 compliant and being FIPS 140-2 validated...

4) Self destruct after 10 tries...Cannot understand why this would be needed. If the software is suppossedly that secure, why would it need to self destruct after a measly 10 password attempts, it should never need to self-destruct.

Before buying any encryption product, people who should really read the snake oil faq. It is dated but still explains the fallacy of many encryption claims and marketing hype.

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