Removable media is a term for any device that allows you to copy or store data and transfer it to another device. A USB stick or portable thumb drive is a popular type of removable media, although things like CDs and even smart phones can be used as portable media.

While removable media make it incredibly convenient to transfer files and store information, they can also put your data and network at risk if you’re not careful. Here are some of the risks along with tips to help minimize them.

 

Risk One: Loss or Theft

The moment you copy data onto a thumb drive, disk or phone, you risk losing it. Whether you absentmindedly leave it in a coffee shop or someone steals it, your data is gone. If it’s sensitive or confidential information, your company can be held liable and subject to legal action or fines. For a deeper look into data breach costs and consequences, check out this piece on CSOonline.com.

 

Half of all employees who find a USB drive in their company’s parking lot will plug it into their machines to see what it contains.

 

Additionally, depending on the type of data and level of sensitivity, your company may be required to publicly report the loss of information, which could lead to angry customers, shareholders and a loss of profits. So, to prevent losing removable media devices, treat them as you would your wallet or purse—always protect or safely lock them away.

 

Risk Two: Media Failure

Removable media devices can wear out or fail earlier than expected. If this happens while you’re storing critical data, your files may be lost for good. To avoid this problem, never use portable media as a long-term storage solution. And when you do copy data onto the device, make sure the source files are available on the company network or backed up somewhere safe.

 

Risk Three: Cyberattacks

Did you know that nearly half of all employees who find a USB drive in their company’s parking lot will plug it into their machines to see what it contains? Cybercriminals know this, which is why one tactic they use to spread malware is to leave infected removable media devices where you can find them.

Never plug an unfamiliar drive into your device as it can infect your machine and subject your network to ransomware or other digital attacks. Instead, turn the device over to your information security team for evaluation.

 

Check out our Removable Media Spotlight and Infographic for more insights.

 

When used properly, removable media make transferring and storing short-term data convenient. By following the tips shared above, you can avoid its pitfalls.

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