October 8, 2013

Don't Be So Attached to Your Favorite Thumb Drive


Hostway Team

usbpocketIn this world of on-demand information retrieval, we expect a certain level of access to our documents wherever we are. It is highly likely you have emailed yourself a document from your work machine to your home computer via a personal email account. It is even more likely that you, like so many others, have a favorite thumb drive that acts as both a transport and data storage device.

USB thumb drives are everywhere. They are given away at tradeshows as promotions. You may have a few squirreled away from your college days that you still use. But do we treat these devices with the same regard as we do other data carriers?

There’s significant risk involved when you combine a lax attitude about a USB drive with a habit of storing important files locally. It has the potential to sabotage your network, and possibly compromise company trade secrets or sensitive personal information.

So why is this important?

It’s human nature to pick up bad habits. Desktop reliance is among them, even if you always lock your computer when away from your workspace; even if your machine locks after a few minutes of inactivity. Despite these safeguards, the issue runs deeper.

Consider the ease with which a person could use your unlocked computer to “click and drag” critical documents, personal information, even your saved passwords from your internet browser within seconds, leaving no evidence behind.

So why is a USB Drive a Bad Idea?

Despite the best efforts of IT administrators and your own best habits, the USB thumb drive is still the greatest threat to your network security.

Several factors make this possible:

1)      People are curious: The curious nature of people in general can be exploited by virus-makers. You may have heard an anecdote about a guy that finds a USB drive in a parking lot and plugs it into his computer. Believe it or not, this happens. The most infamous examples involve viruses like Stuxnet and Conficker infiltrating Top Secret networks via introduction an innocent-looking USB thumb drive. Funny story: At a conference in Australia last year, IBM handed out thumb drives that turned out to be infected by malware. It was a computer security conference.

2)      Viruses and malware are subtle: The majority of contemporary computers feature either a plug-and-play or autorun feature which allows any dormant malware or virus to be quietly uploaded into your system without your knowledge.

3)      An “empty” USB drive can still be data-mined: Data on USB devices (and in general) can be restored using commonly available data recovery tools – modern data forensics methods can recover deleted files and documents. This applies to portable storage devices. Photos, spreadsheets, passwords and more can be recovered even after deletion with a surprising degree of accuracy. So even though your thumb drive appears empty – it’s your greatest liability if it falls into the wrong hands.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your company?

1)      Never save important documents locally, whether it is a cozy corner on your desktop, a folder on your local computer, or your USB thumb drive. If you must save documents or data locally, treat them as though they could walk off at any minute. It will get you in the habit of safeguarding your information.

2)      Get into the habit of saving your important documents in a safer location, such as a secure folder on your company’s network. It won’t protect you from having your local machine compromised, but you’ll have peace of mind that your data can be replaced.

3)      Consider backing up your data to an offsite location or the cloud. Not only is this safer than storing files locally, it also provides essential features such as data security, data recovery and on-demand accessibility that even the best USB drive simply can’t provide.

How can Hostway help?

Hostway provides a low-cost alternative to storing your critical data locally. Hostway’s robust infrastructure consists of geographically dispersed, state-of-the-art data centers with round-the-clock reliability. For less than the price of a new 64 gigabyte USB drive, you can get 5 gigs of Hostway’s Cloud Drive service, and the complete data security and accessibility that comes with it. Eliminate the risk of losing files due to drive defects, and enjoy your documents, music, videos, photos and other files from any computer, tablet or mobile device.

Source: Reasons why you shouldn’t use a USB drive –http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2010/10/dont_stick_it_in.html

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