#BeCyberSmart: Security Best Practices for Removable Media and Devices

For those of us who have a selfless desire to be good citizens, when we find something that does not belong to us our first tendency is to try and identify to whom it belongs. Others, could have different intentions, and say “finders-keepers!”. In either of the above scenarios, the negative impact could be the same if the item that is found is removable media or a removable device that has malicious software (“malware”) embedded within.

Removable media and devices are portable hardware. The most common is a USB flash drive but other forms could be an external hard drive or SD card.

When it comes to cybersecurity best practices, removable media and devices must only be plugged or inserted into your computer if you trust/know the source. For example, if you found a USB flash drive in the grass near the University, there is a chance it was not dropped there by accident but planted there. A malicious attacker would try to social engineer someone into plugging the device into a computer. Whether the intention is to find out who it belongs to or to keep it, the attacker wins and could successfully execute whatever malicious software might be pre-installed on the removable media or device.

Plugging or inserting only trusted removable media or devices into your computer is the best protection against this type of attack. Other preventive and detective measures include:

  • Installing, running, and updating anti-malware/anti-virus software on your computer.
  • Not enabling auto-run features. These features automatically run whatever programs are installed on the media or device.
  • Deleting data on your computer, media, or device once its usefulness has expired. Redundancy of data results in more potential risks.
  • Using strong passwords and replace them if you suspect they have been compromised.

As always, be extra careful with anything that does not come from sources you trust. That extra care is one of your best defenses against security issues.

-Submitted by Jonathan Wagner

Share this post