How USB sticks threaten the security of your business

Does your business rely on memory sticks to store and share data?

Memory sticks, thumb drives, USB sticks, pen drives — so many names for such a small device. No matter what you call them, chances are you own at least one yourself. Because they are so readily available, cheap and convenient, memory sticks have become one of the most popular forms of data storage.

“It is not uncommon for USB sticks to be used to carry and transmit destructive malware and viruses to computers.”

Memory sticks were launched in the late ’90s, and have since become one of the most common forms of data storage worldwide. Year on year, the capabilities of flash memory have improved, which has allowed for memory sticks to get physically smaller, capacities to get larger, and write-speeds to become a lot faster. There’s no escaping the fact that they’re incredibly convenient too; the drives themselves are durable, portable, and they are easy to use.

So where’s the risk?

Just this month, unmarked memory sticks containing damaging malware were found in letterboxes in Melbourne, Australia, ready to be plugged into residents’ computers, who were unaware of the risks of doing so. And, as this BBC report argues, these incidents are not isolated: “It is not uncommon for USB sticks to be used to carry and transmit destructive malware and viruses to computers.”

Unfortunately, in 2016, the positives for using memory sticks are quickly becoming negatives, and they could cost your business severely. Where memory sticks were once the future of data storage, they are now a thumb-sized threat to the security of your company and your customers. Here’s why:

  • Misplace your memory stick, and your confidential data could end up in the wrong hands — especially if it’s un-encrypted
  • Despite their durability, they are still at risk of corruption from physical damage or malfunction
  • Memory sticks are capable of holding many files. They are also capable of of harbouring and transferring a range of dangerous viruses from computer to computer
  • Allowing memory sticks in the workplace makes it very difficult to prevent members of staff from maliciously and intentionally taking home confidential files, which could put your entire business at jeopardy

What can you do?

To ensure the security of your business isn’t compromised by a rogue USB stick, we recommend:

  • A complete ban of memory sticks in the workplace. Disable the use of USB drives where possible and ensure this is written into your business’s IT policy.
  • If this isn’t possible or not suitable for your company, it’s still well worth informing your staff on the risks of using memory sticks. Using memory sticks at work could risk the security of your staff’s personal computers and home networks as well as your business.
  • For an exceptionally reliable data transfer solution for your company, try out ourMX data exchange solution FREE for 30 days. No physical storage devices required, and it’s incredibly fast and simple to use too. No need to worry about the security of your files either; our software automatically encrypts your data and ensures that only the intended recipient is granted access, thanks to our user controls.

Our solution, MX, has replaced the need for businesses, including those within the highly secretive automotive industry, to rely on these out-dated methods of exchange, including unsecured portable hard drives and FTP sites. For years these were seen as quick, easy solutions by many, but experts warn that these are, in fact, perhaps the greatest cybersecurity risk to your business.