USB drives are one of the handiest ways to share information out there. If Internet access isn’t reliable, or you’re sharing sensitive data that doesn’t belong in the cloud, it’s the way to go. However, like most pieces of technology, flashdrives have been known to be used for nefarious purposes as well. USB security is a growing concern, but manufacturers are finding ways to sidestep malware and other headache-inducing security risks.
Group USB Security Settings
Some industries, particularly financial or other private firms, don’t allow the use of an unauthorized USB drive. This is due to the possibility of data leakage or the unintended installation of an insecure application. Here’s how Windows 10 makes it easy for IT departments to block these malicious drives.
USB drives can be easily disabled through a group policy, which most IT departments use to govern various rules and regulations on work-related machines. In Windows 10, an administrator can simply navigate through Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Removable Storage Access. This reveals a wide variety of choices when it comes to removeable storage, including flash drives, CDs, DVDs, even floppy disks.
Individual USB Security Tips
On the basic level, utilize the same suspicion with found USB drives that you would with found food. If you found a candy bar in the parking lot, would you pick it up and eat it? Probably (hopefully!) you wouldn’t, right? The same goes for USB drives. If you find one laying around but don’t know where it came from, don’t plug it into your computer.
While malicious thumb drives are somewhat uncommon or used in targeted attacks (Mr. Robot fans can relate), Forbes still recommends double-checking customized USB drives files. Run a virus scan on untrusted files (using VirusTotal or Malwr). Note that VirusTotal shares the uploads with data researchers, while Malwr will only share if you allow it. Another option is to upload files to a cloud editor like Google Drive to open it.
There are more options that increase with tech savvy. Users can download sandbox programs, or use a Linux proxy, or even upgrade to a virtual machine.
Use Your Best Judgement
Avoiding security risks in any capacity usually relies on using your best judgement. Don’t open weird email attachments from strangers. Don’t share your passwords (or use easy-to-guess passwords). And don’t insert found USB drives into your computer. Especially if you work in an industry know for corporate espionage.