USB Drives Pose Security Risks to IT Professionals
While easy to carry and use, USB flash drives are causing new security concerns, according to recent research.
Conducted by the Ponemon Institute and Kingston, the study found that nearly half of businesses and other organizations have lost sensitive or confidential data that was stored on a USB drive in the last two years. The majority of them – nearly 70 percent – reported USB drives being lost multiple times.
And though USB drives are commonly used in the workplace, the study discovered a majority of businesses and other organizations haven’t considered the security risk.
According to the study, more than 40 percent of organizations surveyed report having more than 50,000 USB drives in use, with nearly 20 percent having more than 100,000 drives in circulation. Yet more than 70 percent of respondents did not consider the protection of confidential and sensitive information on USB drives to be a high priority.
That reality comes despite the average cost of a lost drive. Based on the average number of records contained on each lost drive — 12,000, according to the study — and previous research that puts the average cost of a data breach at $214 per record, each lost USB could cost an organization more than $2.5 million.
“An unsecured USB drive can open the door for major data loss incidents,” Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, said in a statement. “This study drives home the point that (organizations) must also take a more aggressive stance on addressing the risks that exist in virtually every employee’s pocket.”
Despite mandates from some organizations to use secure USB drives, the free sticks obtained at conferences, trade shows, business meetings and similar events are still used by 72 percent of employees, the research found.
Of the IT professionals surveyed, less than one-third felt their organizations had adequate policies in place to prevent USB drive misuse.
"A lack of oversight, education and corporate confusion are factors that lead to the overwhelming majority of data loss when it comes to USB flash drives,” John Terpening, Secure USB business manager at Kingston, said in a statement. “Organizations fear that any attempt to control a device like a USB is likely to be futile and costly, both in terms of budget and loss of productivity."
Terpening said there actually is a wide range of easy-to-use, cost-effective, secure USB flash drive solutions available to organizations.
The study was based on surveys of 743 IT and security professionals from global U.S.-based companies.