What are the security risks of USB drives?

Most people have at least one USB drive, which they usually use to transfer data or back up important documents. Alternatively, you may bring your work with you so that you can delve into it at any time. So, as long as you plug the flash drive into machines you trust, you should be fine most of the time.

Unfortunately, like most people, you might not always utilize only safe devices. Any device with storage, WiFi, or Bluetooth capabilities can carry infection.

What Is a USB Flash Drive?

A USB flash drive is a storage device that combines flash memory with a built-in Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface. The majority of USB flash drives are rewritable and detachable. They are physically small, durable, and dependable. The more storage space they have, the faster they work.

Because there are no moving parts, USB flash drives are highly durable mechanically. The USB port on the device powers them they're connected to. A flash drive or USB drive is another name for a USB flash drive.

Security Risks of USB Drives

Your USB flash drive could be a security risk in different ways −

Misplacing your USB Stick

We've all been here, but how many of us can swear we've never misplaced these small sticks? The most well-known security risks associated with USB flash devices arise when the device is misplaced.

If your USB flash drive is password protected — or better yet, encrypted, you shouldn't be too concerned if you lose it. You'll be alright if you have the data backed up somewhere else. Nobody will crack the encryption (certainly not with modern, commercially available technology); therefore, your information will be safe even if the device is lost or stolen.

However, losing a USB flash drive that isn't password-protected is a different story. Depending on the value of the data held, a simple approach to avoid losing a USB stick is to keep it safely secured on your person. Perhaps tuck it into an inside pocket or tuck it somewhere it won't be seen. It should also be placed in a location where it will not be harmed, as excessive shock or pressure can cause the data to be broken or corrupted.

Malicious USB drives

Because 90 percent of employees utilize USB drives in the workplace, they are an attractive target for cybercriminals.

The latter employ so-called "malicious" USB keys, which contain a pre-programmed attack strategy that allows them to steal a user's data, gain access to his keyboard, monitor his screen (allowing them to watch everything he does, for example), and encrypt his data in exchange for a ransom demand.

Not only may USB devices carry malware and spread infection as soon as they connect to a network, but they can also be booby-trapped and take over keyboards, all while running in the background and without the user recognizing it.

Data Breaches and Losses

Data loss or leakage is another concern that might arise while utilizing insecure USB drives. Losing discs containing sensitive information disrupts the work process and may result in GDPR noncompliance.

Compromised data can stifle a company's growth and tarnish its brand image. It may interfere with milestones, roadmaps, and corporate strategies, depending on the extent of the harm.

Tips to Keep Your Systems Safe from Infected USB Drives

Following are some of the steps that you can take to keep your systems safe from infected USB drives −

  • Do not insert unknown flash drives into sensitive computer systems. This is a social engineering strategy where the attacker takes advantage of people's curiosity.

  • Use a different flash drive for your home and business PCs. This can help to lessen the danger of your computers becoming infected.

  • To secure USB drives, always enable security measures such as fingerprint authentication. This will aid in the device's protection against hackers.

  • Keep your computer's software up to date, as updates provide critical patches for known vulnerabilities.

  • Disable Autorun - When removable media such as CDs, DVDs, and USB drives are inserted into a drive, Windows' Autorun function forces them to open automatically. You can prevent dangerous malware on an infected USB device from opening automatically by deactivating Autorun.

  • Create and enforce policies about USB drives - Make sure your employees are aware of the dangers of USB drives and what your company's policy is on how to use them properly. Consider including a warning about the risks of USB flash drives in your company's training. No organization is immune to human mistake, no matter how tech-savvy its workers appear to be.

  • If you have to share a USB drive with a co-worker, create a process for scanning it for viruses and spyware. Many third-party tools and proactive monitoring and management solutions can scan USB devices for safety, but we recommend consulting an IT professional first. Regardless of whether you're giving someone a jump drive to use or getting one, be careful! It's ideal to use the same jump drive from the minute you take it out of the box until you put it out to pasture.

Keep in mind the potential threats you're exposing your network to the next time you pick up a USB device. Educating yourself and other users about the risks and following computer best practices are the only ways to prevent possible harm. Don't plug your gadgets into computers (or networks) you don't trust and don't plug other people's devices into yours unless you know where they've been.