Did you know that it’s been 16 years since the first commercial USB drive was launched? While there are cloud solutions today, the USB drive still remains a great compact tool for storing and transferring large amounts of data, especially as an offline solution. There’s no denying the convenience of using USB drives whether for private or business use, but what happens when you lose it?

A 2016 study by ESET reveals that over 22,000 USB memory sticks end up in dry cleaners alone, and 45% of such sticks never make it back to their owners. A 2011 study by Kingston stated that about 50% of organisations have lost sensitive or confidential information on USB drives, with the rate climbing significantly. On average, organisations lose 12,000 customer records when USB drives go missing.

This significant data loss and the subsequent security risks are what led to some firms banning USB drives altogether which, is actually counterproductive to the handiness of using one. A better approach would be to take precautionary measures that ensure sensitive data inside the drive does not fall into the wrong hands in the event it gets lost or stolen. Here are some ways to safeguard your USB drive:

Set a password

This is the most basic way you can protect your files. While hackers have mastered the art of password cracking, having difficult passwords that is consist of special characters or different combinations of characters will make hacking your files that much tougher.

Encrypt the data

Employing encryption software such as TrueCrypt, BitLocker, and RohosMiniDrive are also solutions that are simple and easy to use. Many of these suites come with 256-bit encryption and are open source, which makes them free. RohosMiniDrive, for instance, creates a hidden, encrypted, and password protected partition of the USB drive.

Lock the drive

Alternatively, you can also choose to lock the entire drive rather than locking specific files. Tools such as ‘USB Safeguard’ make it possible to encrypt and add a password for the entire drive. This way, only authorised users can run the encryption suite and will have the password to access the drive.

Remote Control Wipe

While the previous solutions focus on preventing hackers from accessing your drive and data, its use is limited once a hacker gains access. In this case, ‘remote wipe’ and ‘remote kill’ options may offer that added layer of security. Many anti-virus and security programs now offer such abilities which allow you to wipe data from the drive remotely thus preventing any leakage.

Kingston, for example, has developed its latest range of DataTraveler 4000 G2 and DataTraveler Vault Privacy 3.0 USB drives that come with in-built 256 bit AES hardware encryption allowing the user to manage the drive remotely such as resetting passwords or killing the drive.

Geofencing your drive

Geofencing your USB drive involves using software that make IP-based location tracking possible. With this option, the drive will work only in specific areas and thus be rendered useless if lost or stolen. This option is now getting increasingly popular as an effective means of USB drive security.

Cancel Authentication Credentials

If your USB contains sensitive information, then you should treat losing your USB as you would your credit card by cancelling the authentication credentials immediately upon loss to prevent any access or misuse of the data. In Australia, the government advises those who lose their USB sticks to cancel their AUSkey, a secure login that identifies the person when using online service on behalf of the business, to ensure no one else uses the AUSkey.

 

While you may think that implementing security measures could lead to extra time and effort spent for a USB, consider the consequences when you do end up in the situation where your data is lost. This risk of losing your data is very real and so are the financial, privacy and credibility implications that come along with it. By being prepared for such situations, you minimise the chances of such data loss affecting your daily operations. If you want to know more about enterprise security solutions for your data or have any questions, we’re happy to help.