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The whole idea of the USB flash drive/thumb drive is to make it easy to remove data from a computer and transfer it to another computer. But convenience and security don't always co-exist well together. There are a lot of justified concerns about flash drive/thumb drive security, especially in the corporate world.
Flash drive/thumb drive makers have been trying to address some of the security issues. The security idea include the following:
* Secure flash drives protect data on the thumb drive with a password. You can't remove any data from the flash memory without first giving the correct password.
* Biometric flash drives/thumb drives. These take security to the next level, recognizing a fingerprint rather than a password.
These can make the data in the flash drive more secure but won't do much for the computer network itself. The easiest way to keep a computer safe from unauthorized or malicious use of a thumb drive is to set the computer to lock after just a few minutes of non-use. Then users will be forced to re-enter a user name and password before accessing the machine. Also, it's possible to disable the USB ports on certain machines, if needed.
Bottom line: USB flash drives are so convenient they can easily become security risks. If you're worried about data on your thumb drive, you can get password- or biometric-protected versions.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|