In my day-to-day life, I analyze data. Recently I had a meeting with an investigator to discuss a project. I showed up, we talked through the analysis she wanted, and then she asked if I had a flash drive to get the data. I handed her my one and only flash drive that holds 100 GB. She stuck it into her computer.
A box popped up on her screen:
“Encrypted. Type password.”
Investigator: “What’s your password?”
I stared at the screen. You see, I did not know the password. I did not even know my flash drive had a password. I never put a password on it.
Me: “I’m not sure. Let me try.”
She continued sitting in front of her computer, blocking easy access to the keyboard.
I hesitated. “Can I type it in?” Or do you want me to bodily reach across you? Do you want to smell my underarm?
Investigator: “Yeah, sure.” She rolled back from her desk.
I typed in my most used password. Fail. I typed in my second most used password. Fail.
“Hmm,” I said. “I never put a password on this flash drive, so I’m not sure.”
Investigator: “Well, it’s encrypted. That means it has a password.”
Intuitively, that made sense. But I hadn’t gone out of my way to encrypt this flash drive, and I certainly didn’t put a password on it when I encrypted it. I only encrypted it because one day I stuck the flash drive into my personal laptop, and it said it needed to be encrypted to use, so I clicked yes. But it never asked for a password. I was pretty sure about this.
Me: “I don’t remember putting a password on it.”
“It’s encrypted," the investigator repeated. "It has to have a password.”
I get that. I just don't know it. I don't think I said that aloud.
Investigator: “Do you have another flash drive?”
Me: (lying) “Let me go get one.”
Investigator: “But if it’s encrypted, you’ll have to know the password.”
Since I didn’t have another flash drive and I was just about to go ask my friend if I could borrow theirs, I realized I was about to walk into the same alleyway full of muggers.
Me: “Do you have a flash drive I could use and just throw the data on my computer?”
Investigator: “Yeah, I do.”
I sat patiently while she put the data on her flash drive. She handed me her flash drive.
Me: (trying to be helpful) “Do you want me to put the data on my computer now or just bring you back the flash drive?”
Investigator: “You have to do it now because my flash drive is also encrypted and you need the password. And I know the password.”
Me: (blinks) “Oh, that’s right.”
I plugged the flash drive into my computer. The driver popped up in my Finder window. I handed her my MacBook to put in her information.
Investigator: “Oh, I don’t know this interface. I only use Windows.”
Me: “I can pull up Windows. I have both interfaces.”
Investigator: “Can you?”
I started my Parallels Desktop. My computer whirred.
Me: “It takes a while. It always makes this noise.”
Investigator: “It’s taking a long time.”
Me: “Well, we can do it on the Mac…”
Investigator: “Let’s do that.”
I switch back to Mac interface. I look for the flash drive on my Finder. It was no longer there.
Me: “That’s funny. I don’t see it.” It's not funny at all.
Investigator: “I don’t either.”
Me: “Do you think I should just pull it out and put it back in?”
Investigator: “It can’t hurt.”
The screen flashed, “USB External drive ejected improperly.”
Investigator: “You didn’t eject it properly.”
Me: “Well, I couldn’t see it so I didn’t know where to click to eject it properly.” I would have if that had been an option.
By this point, my Windows interface was ready. I plugged the flash drive back into my computer. My computer immediately registered the insertion and asked for a password. I handed the investigator once more my computer.
Investigator: “See, it’s encrypted. And here is my password.”
Me: “I see.”
She clicked a bit more and copied the data onto my hard drive.
Me: “Excellent. We’re in business.”
Investigator: “Don’t you want to open it to make sure it’s there?”
No. I just want this interaction to be over.
Me: “Yeah, I guess so. Oh, look, there it is. It’s working.”
Investigator: “Can I have my flash drive back now?”
I clicked “Eject.”
Me: “Ejected properly.”
Investigator: “Thank you.”
Me: “No problem. I’ll email you when the analysis is done.”
I left her office and wanted to die.
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