Security Warning Over USB Threat

Security warning over USB threat

Employers are being warned to have robust security measures in place to protect their IT systems after new research revealed that nearly half of people would plug in a USB stick they found in a car park.

Chris Pallett, managing director of Midlands business technology and communications support firm Bespoke Computing said the survey should encourage companies to check and improve their existing procedures.

The survey showed that 48 per cent of people who found deliberately planted USB sticks had plugged them into their own device without any checks.

Chris, who has been advising on IT systems and cyber security for more than 20 years, said actions like that could pose a serious risk to a firm’s operating system.

“I found the results of the research very disturbing,” he said. “If those USB sticks had been carrying a virus it could potentially cripple a computer system. That in turn could have a major effect on productivity or turnover which is a risk that no-one wants to take.

“Employers need to ensure that they can control the flow of data into and out of their network safely and not jeopardise their systems. Every company should have policies in place to safeguard their IT and make sure that employees know exactly what they should be doing.”

Bespoke Computing, which is based in Stafford Park, Telford, advises and supports organisations across a wide range of industries in Shropshire, the wider West Midlands and beyond.

Chris added: “To protect your data you need to plan for the worst and assume that your computers will be compromised and you may lose data.

“Always protect your information assets with a robust backup solution that guarantees you are able to recover files if the worst were to happen.”

The research, carried out by Google and researchers from two American universities, was released in the same month that computer viruses from USB sticks were found to have infected PCs used at a German nuclear power plant.

The viruses were found on office computers and in a system used to model the movement of nuclear fuel rods as well as on 18 USB sticks used as removable data stores on office computers.

Top tips for using USB stick:

  1. Encrypt the USB if it contains sensitive data. It is a fact of life that USB sticks will go missing and they are so small and easy to fall out of pockets, bags etc
  2. Virus scan every file you open on the USB, as you open it. Any decent and up-to-date antivirus product will do this automatically.
  3. Maintain a pool and register of USB sticks; know what you have and who is responsible for them.
  4. Block all USB sticks except for your pool of known USB sticks. Don’t let the unknown stick become a problem. You may need to invest in software to do this effectively.
  5. If you are even the slightest bit unsure about securing your USB sticks, get advice from an IT professional.

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