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By GCN Staff

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3 tips for secure use of USB drives in the agency

The convenience USB drives offer for portable storage is well known. But so is the potential security threat.

Devices can easily be lost or stolen, putting agency data at risk, or used to deliberately take data from an agency, as Edward Snowden did. They can even be used to introduce malware to a network: A 2011 penetration test by the Homeland Security Department found that 60 percent of USB drives deliberately left in agency and contractor parking lots were picked up and inserted into network computers.

In a recent blog post, Chris LaPoint, vice president of product management at SolarWinds, offered three basic steps agencies can take to ensure USB drive security:

Monitor and track network activity. Unusual activity can indicate breaches or USB-introduced malware. 

Use a secure managed file transfer system. These Web-based systems control access through virtual folders, eliminating the need for physical media and allowing for active monitoring. 

Use a USB defender tool. These provide real-time alerts whenever a USB drive is in use, and block usage if a malicious attack is detected. 

Government agencies have struggled with how to balance the convenience of portable storage devices with the security risks they create. In fact, the Defense Department instituted a ban on these devices for two years, which was eventually lifted in favor of regulated use. Sound precautionary measures, and use of products such as encrypted USB drives, can help agencies store and share their data efficiently.

Posted by GCN Staff on Nov 12, 2013 at 7:43 AM


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