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TINY PORTABLE MEMORY DRIVES CAN CAUSE BIG COMPUTER SECURITY RISKS

Source: Suburban Chicago News

Posted on August 1, 2006

      Recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs disclosed a massive data breach jeopardizing the Social Security numbers of more than 26.5 million veterans.

      Almost weekly, another government agency or business reveals that they have allowed confidential data to get into the wrong hands.

      One reason data is so vulnerable is how that data is stored. Computers have evolved from the large mainframes of yesterday into the portable laptops found on many desks today.

      Since 1998, most PC manufacturers have also incorporated universal serial bus ports on their machines. These standardized USB ports allow users to connect their PCs to printers, mice, iPods and a variety of other devices.

      One device - the USB flash drive - is receiving more scrutiny in light of recent security leaks. The USB flash drive (also known as a jump drive or pen drive) is a cheap memory storage device that quickly plugs into a USB port and can copy stored data.

      A high-capacity USB drive can store up to 8 million documents (or 64 gigabytes) on a device so small that it easily fits into a pocket or onto a key chain.

      Companies should be aware of how easy it is for employees to use the devices, lose them or take competitive information away on them. If the storage device is lost or stolen, vast amounts of valuable company information could affect customer data security and seriously damage the company's reputation with those customers.

      While these storage devices have legitimate business purposes, once sensitive information is downloaded, you can't control where that data goes. The devices can also introduce viruses to the network - viruses that can delete company records, slow system response time and cause downtime.

      Each business should have strict workplace polices on how data is collected, stored and accessed. Those polices should be explained to every employee.

      Obviously, the risk does not go away with policies alone, and business owners may want to investigate the use of security software that is available to control USB devices on their networks.

      Don't ignore the growing security threat that USB sticks can introduce into your workplace. Take the steps necessary to protect your data and the reputation of your business. Talk to your IT consultant for further information.




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