USB Drives – Protecting Your Humble Workhorse from Malware and Loss

The humble USB drive—the workhorse of students, professionals, and everyday computer users. No wonder hackers put USB drives in their crosshairs. 

Why such a target? All the things that make USB drives attractive to us make them attractive to hackers. They’re inexpensive, portable, and often swap between users. Taken together, that creates the perfect medium for hosting and distributing malware. 

Likewise, USB drives can get lost or stolen quite easily. An absentminded or careless moment could put sensitive information at risk. 

However, that’s not to say you should avoid using USB drives. Not at all. In fact, you can use them securely by taking a few straightforward steps. 

How to protect your USB drive from malware and loss 

Encrypt your USB drive.

Encryption gives you huge peace of mind in the event you lose your USB drive. It prevents others from accessing the data and files on it by scrambling them. Only a person with the password can access them. Windows users can check out this “how to” article on encryptionApple users can learn about encryption on their support site as well.  

Purchase a USB drive with encryption built in.

If you’d rather skip those steps, you can purchase a USB drive that uses hardware-based encryption built in. These drives cost a little more, yet they more than make up for that in the protection that they offer.  

Keep your USB drive on you.

Physical security is important too. You can prevent loss and theft by toting around your drive in your pocket, bag, or purse. Locking it away in a secure location while you’re not using it stands as a solid option as well. 

Mind your sharing.

You never know what malware might be lurking on someone else’s device. Sharing a USB drive with someone else can help malware make the jump from their device to yours. Think twice before sharing. 

Watch out for USB devices in the wild.

Don’t put it past hackers to load a USB drive with malware in the hopes that someone will pick it up. In fact, several large malware campaigns got their start by mailing “free” USB drives to thousands and thousands of households, businesses, and government agencies. 

Disable AutoPlay.

On Windows computers, you can prevent USB drives from automatically running any files. Some malware will run when the drive gets inserted into the device. Head to Settings > Devices > AutoPlay to disable that feature.  

Deleting isn’t enough—shred your old files.

Deleting a file doesn’t erase data from a drive. It makes space available on a drive, so that old data might still be there—and recoverable. Comprehensive online protection like ours includes a file shredder that will completely erase old data and files. 

Use online protection software.

Malware can easily make its way onto a USB drive. Comprehensive online protection can spot, block, and remove malware before it can do any harm.  

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