USB Sticks, Thumb Drives, Flash Drives, Memory Sticks, Flash Stick, USB Flash Drive, Key Drive, Pen Drive, Jump Drive. Do you know what is on yours? Do you know where it came from?
These portable drives have become very popular over the last few years. Many companies will put their names on them and give them out as give-a-ways, incentives for employees or as ways to back up their computer information. Here are some things you need to know and be aware of when using these devices.
1. The “bad guys” will buy them, put a popular company logo or name on them and out their virus or malware on them. Then they will put them around for people to find and plug into their systems, resulting in an infection. A recent study by the University of Illinois and CompTIA took 250 of these devices and put a virus on them that only “called home” and to say it had been installed. They then put them around where people could find them. Over half were found and plugged into computers resulting in the “call home”. If you do not know where your thumb drive came from, do not use it.
2. People will use thumb drives as their portable storage device so when they go home and then back to the office they carry it with them so they always have their information with them. Good idea in theory but there can be problems with it. For instance, I had a lawyer call me the other day and ask if we could repair thumb drives. All of her case work was stored on her thumb drive and it crashed leaving her with no backup and no data. Second, these devices are easy to break, lose or steal. All someone has to do is to grab and put in their pocket and they have your data. If you have sensitive data, it gets worse – now you have a data breach that must be reported.
So how should you use your thumb drive? I do use it to transport information when needed but there is always a copy of the data somewhere else – usually on my computer. I also use it to carry programs that I need to normally download from the Internet to save time. Lastly, I use thumb drives to share information that may take too long to download or is too big to email to someone.
I keep my thumb drive on my keyring so I do not lose it. I never have information on it that would be a problem if it was lost, stolen or if the thumb drive was broken. I never use a thumb drive as a backup device – but that is just me. You could use it for backup just don’t carry it around with you all the time.
And by all means, if you find a thumb drive laying around, and it is not yours, DO NOT put it in your computer. Do not open the files on it. You do not want to become a statistic.