Removable media has been a staple of modern-day computing for decades. Removable media is very easily lost, which could result in the compromise of large volumes of sensitive information stored on it. It is more important than ever to make sure removable media is used in a safe and protected way.

What is Removable Media?

Removable media gives users convenience when it comes to accessing personal or business data on the go. Examples of removable media include USB flash drives, external hard drives (i.e. SSD), Card readers (i.e. SD card and memory card), Removable discs (i.e. Blu-ray discs, CD-ROMs, DVDs), etc.

There are two main uses of removable media:

  1. For additional portable storage
  2. To allow for data to be copied, transferred or access on other computers

The use of removable media has been increasing every day due to the features it offers. However, as the use of these devices is increased, the risk is also proliferated. The features that have once been useful, are now being used to exploit devices. The failure of validating these features can be used against their use.

Removable Media Security Risks

  1. Loss of Information – Since removable media devices are small, they can be lost or stolen easily. In such a scenario, there is a high chance of the data in the removable media being exposed to unknown sources. Even if the removable device and the data inside it are encrypted, there is no chance of recovering the data if the device is lost.
  2. Malware – When USB drives are shared, there is a high probability of spreading malware. This is because malware cannot be detected by sight and can be easily installed on any USB drive and can be shared. It takes only one USB drive to infiltrate the whole organization’s network.
  3. Failure of Media – Every device has an expiry date, and these removable media is no exception to that. We cannot expect when the device is going to fail or get corrupted or damaged. In such cases, if important organization files are in it, they are lost forever.
  4. Reputation Loss – Because of all the above incidents, there is a high chance of data getting leaked or lost, which can cause serious reputation damage to the organization.

Best Practices for Removable Media

  • Develop a policy for the usage of removable media in the organization.
  • Wiping off all the data from media when they are no longer needed.
  • Encrypt the data inside the media and never share the passwords with strangers.
  • Installing anti-virus software and scanning the device every time before using.
  • Employees are supposed to maintain personal and business data separately.
  • Never use untrusted or unknown removable media on an organizational network.
  • Never copy files to removable media unless you are authorized to do so.
  • Never leave the device lying around. Secure it properly.

Final Thoughts: Removable Media

Using removable media, like a flash drive, can be dangerous within an organization because the malware is able to bypass the security solution deployed at an organization’s network perimeter. If the use of removable media is absolutely necessary, the best way to prevent data loss is to only plug trusted sources of removable media into your computer. Ensuring anti-malware and anti-virus software have been installed, run, and updated regularly on all connected machines can prevent attacks.

Since removable media and devices are an integral part of today’s society, it is important that all users and top executives within an organization understand what they can do to protect themselves and the organization from malware and viruses.