removable media threats

Removable media have become a staple to data storage. But are they 100% safe? Well, no. Several risks are associated with it, like malware infection, data security, copyright infringement, physical damage, etc. Removable media threats can lead to data leakage or data loss, which can impose heavy reputational and financial damage. 

What is Removable Media?

Removable media is a storage device type that you can remove from a computer or laptop while the system is running. Some common removable media devices are USB memory sticks, external hard drives, CDs, DVDs, SD cards, etc. These are used as backup storage devices for safeguarding confidential and important data. It’s also used as an additional storage space because the default storage space in devices is limited. 

But what are removable media threats? These devices are generally easy and handy to use, but there are some risks associated with them. These include data security, malware, media failure, loss of devices, etc. The later part of the blog will discuss this in detail.

When Can You Use Removable Media on a Government System?

You can use removable media on the government system only during emergencies, and permission will be granted on Defense Department Computers. These computers must comply with the hardware required to exchange data.

What Must Users Do When Using Removable Media?

While removable media is helpful for storing and transferring data, it comes with some risks. However, before knowing which is a risk associated with removable media, let’s see what precautions you should take if you use one. 

  • All removable media and devices should be encrypted. If the device is lost or stolen by hackers, the data useless to them will be rendered.
  • Install a trusted anti-virus and anti-malware program to be notified about infected removable media.
  • Refrain from connecting found media or devices to your laptop. Instead, hand over an unknown storage device to your security or IT team.
  • Reset passwords after your trips if you’ve utilized official data on removable media.
  • Always use a long password that includes a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Don’t share passwords on removable media with anyone.
  • Disable Autorun and Autoplay features.
  • Store personal and official data on separate devices. 
  • Delete confidential data after transferring it to your PC or phone. 
  • Implement physical security to protect your data, if required.
  • Educate your employees about removable media threats. 
  • Ensure your data is backed up in case of lost or stolen removable media devices.

Which is a Risk Associated With Removable Media?

Removable media is efficient and helps in managing storage issues. It makes it convenient to transfer data but also bears some threats that can be overlooked. So, let’s see which is a risk associated with removable media.

Data Security

Whenever you copy sensitive data to removable media like a hard drive or pen drive, there’s a risk of data being accessed and intercepted by unauthorized entities. As they are small and easy to transport, the chances of them getting lost or stolen are high. Even encryption won’t help you recover lost data.

Malware Infections

Malware is spread unintentionally when you eject removable media, as they can easily be installed on such devices. This becomes a chain and hits multiple devices if autorun is enabled. That’s why installing and regularly updating credible anti-virus software on all PCs and laptops is suggested. 

Although these malware infections mainly spread due to careless user behavior, hackers sometimes exploit removable media to infect computers. They use baiting, which is a form of social engineering technique where a malware-infected device is left in a busy place. This counts as one of the security risks for remote workers when they work in public places, usually while traveling. 

Copyright Infringement

The data stored in removable drives can be subjected to copyright. If you’ve stored copyrighted data without the owner’s permission, hefty fines can be imposed. 

Media Failure

Another removable media threat is its shorter life span than other forms of media. They can get corrupted or malware infected, leading to data loss.

How to Set Up a Removable Media Security Policy?

As a company owner, you will be held accountable and face the repercussions of leaked and stolen data. Thus, you must set a removable media policy that should be implemented across departments so that your employees handle these devices responsibly. Let’s see how you can make one for your organization.

Outline

Just like other policies created in a company, this should also begin with certain parameters that are to be explained inside a policy document. You must set a clear outline describing current and potential vulnerabilities explored in the company’s network. It should also include perceived threats linked to using removable media within your official boundaries.

Purpose

Post setting an outline, you’ve to state the purpose of creating and implementing a new policy. In this section, you’ve to encourage employees to reach out to the IT department regarding queries and concerns about removable media threats.

Scope

This section explains what will be covered in the policy and what’s left. Ensure to explain all the points in detail to minimize conflicts and doubts. 

Policy Overview

Now, you’ll outline the actual policy here and specify the following:

  • Which type of data can be stored?
  • When can employees use removable media?
  • Who can use removable media?
  • How to encrypt information?
  • How users must scan removable media before opening.
  • All exceptions and exclusions.

Non-Compliance

Specify what repercussions will be imposed on anyone not abiding by the policy. This can include fines, dismal, suspensions, warnings, etc. 

Glossary

In the glossary, you’ve to explain the terminologies used throughout the document to make things understandable and more transparent. 

Final Thoughts

If you use removable media for storing information crucial to your business, you must ensure they are physically protected and your employees know how to use them carefully. Careless user behavior leads to spreading malware from one device to another, infecting multiple devices in the chain. 

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