How safe is that USB drive?

by admin | October 3, 2019

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There is a good chance you have an unknown, unmarked USB flash drive in your desk drawer right now. You may not be sure where you got it (it could have been from that trade show last year), you may not be sure of what documents are saved on it (if any at all), but you should know that your USB flash drive comes with a fair amount of risk.

USB flash drives can be a convenient, inexpensive and simple way to store, backup and share your computer files. Compared to the floppy disks and CD’s of yesterday, USB flash drives have more capacity and are a portable option when transferring both business and personal files. Sometimes referred to as a “thumb drive” because of their small size and shape, USB flash drives are a popular promotional item and are given away at most business conferences and events as a cool freebie to be collected in your swag bag. However, before plugging that free USB flash drive into your computer or even utilizing one to store or share confidential documents, there are some concerns you should be aware of.

Simply plugging a USB flash drive into your computer can be extremely risky. USB flash drives from unknown or public sources may contain malware (malicious software) that can easily hide from your computer’s security features. Oftentimes, those free USB flash drives from trade shows or conferences contain pre-loaded promotional materials. Even when you delete the contents of the USB flash drive, you are still potentially compromising your system. We recommend only using new flash drives from reputable retailers and being very cautious with whom you share your files. Whenever you connect a flash drive, always scan it for infections as a precaution.
Another downfall to using a USB flash drive is that any data stored on them can easily be lost or stolen. Due to their small size, they are easily misplaced. If the data on your flash drive is not encrypted, your personal or business information is then put at risk due to their lack of security. Conversely, if you ever find a lost USB flash drive, never plug it into your computer to view the contents or find the owner. Keeping your flash drives in locked drawers, on your person or otherwise secured is advised. Label them or attach a lanyard for easy identification and protections from loss.

Flash drives break and damage easily. If the connector becomes damaged or your flash drive malfunctions, all the stored data is lost. Therefore, using a flash drive as a backup solution is not the most sensible choice.

A much safer option than using a USB flash drive is a service we offer called ShareSync. ShareSync is a cloud file sync and backup utility that includes secure file sharing to keep your company’s data protected. ShareSync is supported on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, and there is a web interface, too. Apps install quickly and always update automatically. This collaboration tool enables file and folder backup across user devices, along with sharing features for distributing and syncing files both internally and externally.

Whereas a flash drive has little to no security, you can be confident your data is completely secure on ShareSync, as each connection is authorized and authenticated. You can always be sure that all of your data is secure using industry-standard encryption on the ShareSync cloud. Additionally, the software offers versioning which would protect you in the event you were hit by malware. Flash drives don’t do that!

ShareSync’s flexible permissions allow you to control who can edit, view, delete, and modify your content. You can easily share folders with colleagues, so you are able to collaborate freely. The Send Link option allows you to create a secure web link which can be shared with just about anyone - recipients do not need to be ShareSync subscribers to access the content. Access controls on shared files even include password protection and expiration. The Send Link option also allows you to share files of any size, as we all know large files can be tricky when using email. Files larger than the maximum size supported by your email system (e.g. 50 MB) can be shared by simply sharing a web link on the ShareSync cloud.

ShareSync versioning provides the full history of changes to a file and allows the user to trace back by opening a past version. It also allows you to restore a past version to the current/latest version of a file. Older versions of files can be restored if damaged, deleted, or otherwise compromised by users or malware. Versioning can even serve as protection against ransomware file loss.

Ransomware has been in the news frequently in recent years and is a form of malware that encrypts your files. The attacker then demands a ransom to restore access to your data upon payment. Ransom money can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, but since you are dealing with criminals, there is no guarantee that you will actually get your data back or that more malware is not resident on your system. Ransomware typically spreads through phishing emails or by visiting an infected website. One client opened as assumed resume, but it turned out to be infected with ransomware. All the user’s system files (including those that were assumed to be backed up in free file sync utility) were then encrypted. Because paying ransom is not advised, having a viable backup and disaster recovery plan in place for essential data is critical. ShareSync can be a part of that solution. In the event of a lost or stolen device, ShareSync is one of just a few backup and file sharing solutions that allows administrators to delete data remotely. In case of a lost or stolen laptop, tablet, mobile phone, or even when facing a personnel issue, corporate data can be quickly removed, helping to minimize potential data leakage.

Rather than plugging a USB flash drive into your computer, ShareSync’s security features make it a highly secure and viable choice for your file backup and sharing needs. For more information about ShareSync’s security features or to request a live product demonstration, please contact us.


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