USB and other flash media
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usb memory

A USB drive is a flash memory card that plugs into the computerís USB port. It is small and portable and allows data to be easily transferred from one computer to another. They are much faster, contain much more data and are considered more reliable than floppy disks. It is also known as a flash drive, pen drive, keychain drive USB key, USB stick and memory key.

These devices present a significant security challenge for large organizations. Their small size and ease of use allows unsupervised visitors or unscrupulous employees to smuggle confidential data out with little chance of detection therefore proper data destruction is imperative.

According to Web-Feet Research, USB flash drives sales are forecasted to reach 340 million in 2008, consisting of approximately 75% smart drives.

Other flash media include:

  • CompactFlash
  • SmartMedia
  • Secure Digital (SD) card
  • Memory stick

Existing methods of removing data from USB drives

  Software overwrite Physical Destruction
Description This process works by overwriting the data with a combination of 1īs and 0ís. The level of security depends on the number of times the entire media is written over. It is best to use certified software that provides detailed reporting of the erasure process such as Blancco software. Can be accomplished using a variety of methods, including disintegration, incineration, pulverization, shredding, melting, sanding, and chemical treatment. This method does not actually destroy data but makes the media inoperable preventing data recovery. Should be carried out at an approved facility by trained and authorized personnel.
  • Drives can be reused
  • Software tools that provide detailed reporting of the erasure process are able to validate the erasure of every device
  • Fast and convenient way to erase data
  • Can be performed in-house
  • It is an effective way of destroying data if carried out correctly
  • Cannot be used if the media is damaged or is not writeable.
  • Most software tools do not provide detailed reporting of the erasure process therefore providing no audit trail
  • Many freeware/shareware tools exist which perform an incomplete erasure putting a company at risk of a data breach.
  • These devices are small and mobile and usually difficult to account for therefore theft and uncontrolled handling are common which can lead to unauthorized data exposure
  • The machines used for physical shredding are designed for larger units. It is highly possible that a small memory card or USB stick will go through undestroyed and can therefore result in an information leak.
  • Physical destruction does not provide reporting of the erasure process which is needed to prove regulatory compliance
  • The media cannot be reused and is therefore not an environmentally safe approach
  • Usually has to be outsourced to a third party therefore compromising data security as theft and uncontrolled handling can lead to unauthorized exposure of confidential data