Portable encrypted backups

Using the SD port on the MacBook Pro for easy backups.

To keep track of the ever-growing array of passwords and private data, I use 1Password, which I could not recommend more.

There’s a problem though: what if I lose access to my database? I’ve toyed with a few options in the past, including uploading it to Dropbox or Google Drive, but these are services for which I’ve enabled multi-factor authentication, and require internet access.

For a few years now, Macbook Pros have included an SD slot for photographers. Or, as it turns out, everybody!

I bought a Transcend SD card with a decently-useful 16GB capacity for about $10. As of OS X 10.8, you can format any disk to be encrypted. Match made in heaven.

Going from the stock card to an encrypted version is easy, but does involve making the disk Mac-only:

  1. Launch Disk Utility from /Applications/Utilities
  2. Select the SD card from the source list and choose “Partition.”
  3. When repartitioning the drive, choose “Options…” and format using GPT.
  4. Erase the newly-created partition with the “Mac OS Extended (Journaled, Encrypted)” option.

With a tiny, portable, encrypted disk, there’s a lot of cool things you can back up. I currently save:

  • My 1Password and system keychains.
  • The database for Authy, which is like Google Authenticator, backed up via iExplorer.
  • Copies of my source code repositories.
  • Public and private SSH keys.

I’ll find more uses as time goes on. Right now it’s a manual process to update, but this is more of an emergency backup: I use Arq for my normal backup needs.