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Security Best Practices When Using Removable Media

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In today’s world, the use of removable media is very popular.  What exactly is removable media?  The most common phrases are USB drives, jump drives, flash drives, SD cards, CD’s, DVD’s, portable hard drives and other storage devices.  Using these types of devices make it very convenient, portable and easy to backup, store and share data, especially when files are too large to email.  It’s a balancing act to gain anytime access while continuing to protect sensitive information.

Although there are numerous benefits to using removable media devices both at home and in the workplace, there are also a lot of risks to consider when using this technology. 

Best Practices When Using Removable Media

  • Never connect removable media that is found, especially if you're not sure where it came from. Untrusted devices can contain malware and viruses which can harm your computer, and the network. Download files only from trusted sources.
  • Personal devices such as iPods and smart phones can also be considered removable media. Games or applications on the device can contain malware or viruses, which could potentially infect your computer. Make sure to only download games and applications from known and trusted sources and do not connect to your company computer.
  • Make sure your computer has up-to-date aintivirus installed and it is configured to automatically scan any removable media when connected.
  • Consider disabling the autorun or autoplay features on your computer. Viruses can be secretly launched throuhg the autorun or autoplay features setup by default on most computers.
  • If you're a business owner, consider blocking the use of removable media or at least limiting the access to a few trusted employees. Malicious employees can easily steal confidential date and insider information without detection. Removable media can also be used deliberately or unknowingly to transfer malware. USB devices are usually hard to physically detect and very easy to hide. Today they can come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes disguised as everyday objects (pens, animals, food, collectables, ect.).
  • If possible, purchase Self Encrypting USB devices or use File Encryption Software to protect your removable devices. If drive encryption isn't available, at a minimum consider adding a strong, complex passphrase to the device for some protection.
  • If removable media is used in your normal business practices, remember to store them properly in a secure, locked location. It is best to document and audit the physical location of all removable media and properly dispose of when no longer needed.
  • It's a good idea to keep beusiness and personal storage devices separate. Personal removable media should never connect to the company network.
  • If you need to send encrypted removable media offsite, be sure to send the password separately and do not send with the device.
  • Once you've transferred data off the device, make sure to delete the data from the device. If the removable media is no longer needed, be sure to properly dispose of the device.
  • Consider adding this topic to your annual security training.

Remember education is the best resource to secure your data. The best defence isn't technology, it's you.