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.  

Introducing McAfee+

Identity theft protection and privacy for your digital life

#USB #Drives #Protecting #Humble #Workhorse #Malware #Loss

In this blog we usually discuss software solutions for information security. But one of the important aspects of cybersecurity is various measures aimed at preventing physical access to data and devices that contain it. Here, of course, there is no doing without hardware. So, here I overview several categories of gadgets for data protection at the physical level.

Port locks for connectors

Connectors pose a major physical security problem. Anyone passing by could plug in something interesting. A hardware keylogger, a malware-infected flash drive, or even their own computer. And it’s hard to prevent, since connectors are literally everywhere.

Hard, but not impossible: there are special locks that help to protect almost any connector in your hardware zoo: USB (of any type, including USB-C), 8P8C (RJ-45 on the vendor’s site, but we know better) and 6P6C (popularly known as RJ-11), SFP and QSFP, DB-9 and DB-25 serial ports, memory card slots, display connectors, and so on.

Besides security plugs for empty ports, there are locks for connectors that are constantly in use. They protect against the physical disconnection of something from a computer or, say, a router (for stealing or replacing with malicious device).

In a nutshell, if you’ve long wanted total control over all your connectors, but had no idea on how to approach it, now you know.

Among similar gadgets, we could mention devices for protecting USB flash drives that allow you to lock the USB connector and literally chain the drive to something. Such devices will not, of course, help against the determined thief, but will deter the opportunist passerby from removing your flash drive with one deft hand movement.

Kensington lock

Not everyone has heard of the Kensington Security Slot, aka Kensington lock — an anti-theft system for computer equipment. It can often be found on laptops, dock stations, desktops, and monitors.

Kensington Security Slot on a laptop

An inconspicuous hole on the side of a laptop used to attach a Kensington lock

Again, we can’t say that the Kensington lock provides 100% protection against theft — special tools can defeat it. However, it makes stealing equipment a bit harder for the untrained criminal. It’s also particularly effective against casual thieves who cannot thwart the temptation to steal expensive devices that happen to be left unattended.

Laptop secured with a Kensington lock

Kensington lock in action

By the way, although the Kensington Security Slot can’t be found on Apple devices anymore, there are special gadgets for MacBooks and iMacs that add this capability.

Anti-spy screen protectors

If you’re worried about people peering over your (or your employee’s) shoulder, there’s good news: you can protect against this, too. This is what special polarizing screens are for. These protective filters reduce the viewing angle to such an extent that only someone sitting directly in front of the screen can see the display.

There are polarizing screens not just for laptops, but for smartphones and tablets as well.

Faraday cages of every creed

In today’s world, there is no escape from wireless technologies and related threats, like completely contactless data interception, relay attacks, radio tracking, or even electromagnetic pulses that can destroy information. However, there are so-called Faraday cages that can block electromagnetic radiation and thus defend against such threats.

“Cage” is a slight misnomer: in reality, it can be a “Faraday envelope”, “Faraday wallet”, “Faraday bag” or whatever, depending on what you want to protect: a portable hard drive from external exposure, a contactless card from relay attacks, a phone from cell-tower triangulation, and so on.

Among the various products you can buy are “Faraday fabrics”. These you can use to build your own shielded container of any size and shape.

Fabric for blocking radio signals

Faraday fabrics are designed to block electromagnetic radiation

Anti-peeping covers for webcams

The problem of malware and websites spying on users through the webcam pops up all too regularly. Sure, there are software-based fixes for the issue, but for maximum peace of mind, the best way is to physically cover the camera lens. A few years ago, Mark Zuckerberg’s MacBook drew attention to itself for having tape over not only the webcam but also the microphone.

Instead of duct tape, you can apply a more elegant solution: a special shutter to cover the webcam. This offers reliable anti-peeping protection with one hand motion. And if the camera is needed, the same hand motion will make it available for use. Any online marketplace will sell such covers for a pittance.

Webcam shutter

Solve the peeping problem with a webcam cover

Bluetooth tags for locking Windows

Many people aren’t in the habit of locking their computer when they step away from it. But it’s one that all employees should develop, of course. To get the ball rolling, it’s worth telling them about several ways to lock a computer quickly and painlessly. And to be on the safe side, ask them to use the dynamic computer locking feature, which appeared last year in Windows 10 and 11.

This feature is aptly named “Dynamic Lock”. It uses Bluetooth to lock the computer automatically if the device paired with it moves away. Microsoft’s intention was for this device to be a smartphone. But there is a drawback: some people don’t always take their phones when they leave their workplaces.

How to set up Dynamic Lock in Windows 10

Dynamic Lock appeared in Windows 10 and 11 last year

So, instead of a smartphone, a special tag that can be attached to, say, a keychain would be more suitable in some cases. Often such tags double up as a two-factor authentication device, increasing security on two fronts at once. Here are a couple of examples of such devices.

Build employee security awareness

It goes without saying that any security measures and solutions depend directly on the human factor. It is imperative that company employees understand the information security implications of their actions, and know where to expect threats from and, ideally, how to respond to incidents.

That means raising awareness of potential threats and ways to counter them. Our Automated Security Awareness Platform is the perfect tool for building cybersecurity awareness.

#gadgets #information #security

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