Disposable USB Thumb Drives

“That’s right, disposable USB drives, a.k.a. thumb drives.”
“Wait, isn’t that environmentally un-friendly?”
“Yes. So is throwing away latex gloves in hospitals, but aren’t we glad they do?”
“Wouldn’t this cost money?”
“A lot less than a security breach!”

It amazes me how many organizations, especially hotels and conference centers, still instruct people to bring their presentation or files for display on a USB drive.

There’s a good reason computer viruses are called viruses. They’re made to spread! They are often coded to seek out drives they can copy themselves to and reach more machines on more networks. And that’s just how your computer sees a USB stick – as a drive. If you use one outside your company network and then plug it back into a company device, you’ve just introduced all the germs from everybody else who stuck their USB stick into that same computer, whose companies may not have security controls at all on their network.

So use a fresh, clean one that you can toss afterward. When you’re done with your presentation, before removing the USB drive from the shared computer, format it or encrypt it. Then throw it away.

If the USB drive contained highly secure or very sensitive information, we recommend physically destroying it. You can use pliers or similar tools to open the casing, and then physically break the memory chip inside, which will render it unreadable. (We do a similar process with full-size hard drives using a big hydraulic press in our lab.)

Fun fact: when USB drives are left lying around, people will stick them in a computer half the time.

Here are three brands of USB drives you can purchase for a few bucks.  You can choose the size based on whatever images or PowerPoint you need to display. I recommend having a supply of them secured in your office and educating your coworkers on using them. Buy them from a reputable seller, too.
1. SanDisk
2. PNY
3. Silicon Power


Thanks to these brains for their contributions to this topic:

Christian Cooper, Support Services Specialist; Corey Hughes, Deployment Technician; Jeff Mertz, Senior Network Engineer; Reno Olivero, Regional Director