You and Your Flash Drive
Why It's Important
Flash drives are the new "floppy diskette". Flash drives (also called "Thumb Drives(R)" or memory sticks,) are small electronic memory devices that are about the size of your little finger. Typical flash drives are able to store anywhere from 256M Bytes to 2G Bytes or more of data. Flash drives may be built into a device, such as an MP3 player, inserted into a device through a small stamp sized slot, or plugged into a USB port.
Most flash drives are compatible with Windows, MAC and Linux, and can store any kind of data file including: run able programs, picture files, video files, music files, text and Word files, spread sheets and database files. Flash drives are used as a portable data storage media, used to make backup copies of important data files, and used to copy files from one computer to another. Unlike CD-ROM, flash drives are reusable and data files can be added, deleted or updated directly on the flash drive.
Flash drives are very easy and convenient to use, however they do come with their fair share of security risks. While they are fairly durable, they do break - usually the USB connector gets broken so that it can't be plugged in any more. They are easy to lose, easily forgotten, and easy to steal. Like the floppy disks of old, flash drives are common carriers of Viruses, Worms, Trojan horse programs, Keystroke loggers, Root kits, Adware & Spyware. And, because of their ease of use, they are frequently used to carry confidential or proprietary data out of an organization inappropriately.
What You Can Do About ItThese simple security precautions can go a long way in protecting your hard work from accidental loss.
A few safety precautions should be followed when using flash drives.
- Be sure your use of flash drives are in compliance with official policy. College policy prohibits saving Social Security numbers or credit card numbers on flash drives.
- Encrypt private and sensitive data. Many flash drives come equipped with data encryption capabilities.
- Minimize the type and amount of data on the flash drive. Only put the data (or documents) you will need onto the drive. Remove data from the flash drive when it is no longer needed.
- Disable "Auto Run" on the computers that use flash drives. This can help to prevent malicious software from spreading from computer to computer via the flash drive.
- Configure the Anti-virus program to automatically scan floppies, USB's and other drives when they are inserted. Be sure to keep your anti-virus software up to date.
- Create a plain ASCII text file called "Property Of.txt" or "If Found.txt" on the flash drive. Put your name and e-mail address (or cell phone number or P.O. address) into the text file - do not put your street address, 900 number or land line telephone number into the file.
- Do not plug a "free" or "found" flash drive in just to see what's on it, particularly on a Windows computer. You need to be fully equipped to detect, trap and remove any malicious software that may be on such a drive.
- Store your flash drive separate from your laptop. That way, if your laptop should be lost or stolen, you will still have your data.
- Keep iPods, cell phones, laptops, flash drives and other valuables out of sight and locked up when not in use. Think of the "Ben Franklin" test - if you wouldn't leave a $100 bill lying out then don't leave your flash drive or other valuables lying out.