USB Flash Drive and USB ports were made to transfer information from one device to another in a faster, more efficient way. Unfortunately, whenever there is a worthwhile gadget made for good intentions, there are those who use the technology in order to abuse it.
Along with helping organizations big and small, USBs have exposed our desktop and laptop computers to a whole new breed of viruses and malware. Everyday people lose their precious data through malicious infections on their USB drives and possibly even their USB devices as well. Yet we can’t just switch these devices off and never use them again because in this day in age we need USB drives and USB devices to get our work done. So what do we do then?
Here’s an unfortunate, and real situation that could occur: “The viruses are not responding to our antivirus software. We have over 2,000 computer in our network infected thus far and they’ve all shut down. This could take up to 3 months to fix.” Does this sound like a problem your company wants to encounter? Probably not. And yet this year alone, many businesses already have had to.
So how are we supposed to secure these ports from possible virus and malware infection? In this article, we’ll talk about three ways to help you get started.
Many of you probably already thought of this method. People usually say, “hey there’s a software program that’ll take care of that.” And in this case they’re right – there’s actually quite a few I might add. However, a lot of people are under the presumption that you must buy software to secure their USB drives, USB ports and USB gadgets.
They’d be surprised to find out that Microsoft already includes a built-in capability to lock down their USB ports. For more information about this method, please visit the Windows 7 Support Center. Unfortunately, this is an “all or nothing” type solution.
So for those of you that probably need a little more security that what Microsoft alone can offer you, there are software programs available for you to purchase that give you more options for granting and denying access to USB drives, USB ports and USB gadgets.
When you begin searching for the right software to protect your USB drives with, you’ll notice that these programs are very flexible. Most have the function of assigning read only access, read/write capabilities, complete denial or full control to certain USB devices or files.
You can program the software to give access only to certain media, like a keyboard or mouse, but deny everything else. You can grant temporary or scheduled access to some media or file types, and also control which applications users are allowed to transfer to and from removable devices. Most let you assign these setting to a particular user or group name, and apple them to whatever machine that user logs onto. All in all, these software programs are very adaptable, and can be tweaked to fit almost anyone’s needs.
ClamWin Portable is the popular ClamWin antivirus built for USB drives, so you can have a portable antivirus with you to scan and remove harmful malware anywhere. This portable application features high detection rates for both viruses and spyware, along with regular virus database updates for the most thorough scan possible. The ClamAV team regularly updates their virus databases to include any new viruses or variants immediately after they appear.
Instead of relying solely on software solutions, (which can sometimes fail to do as promised and may be corrupted to begin with), you could also put a physical solution into effect.
The first thing you can do right off the bat is get a PS2 keyboard and mouse. These gadgets plug into special jacks, not traditional USB ports. By plugging your peripherals into these jacks and avoiding USB port altogether, you leave the option open to use Microsoft’s method of switching the ports off completely, preventing any connection whatsoever. These jacks are found on most computers, but not all, so be sure to check that your equipment has them before you go buying things.
If you can’t get a hold of the keyboard and mouse jacks, or just plain don’t like the idea of getting used to a new mouse, here’s another idea for you. There are locking mechanisms on the market that can trap the cable connecting your key board or mouse to your computer, and keeps it there. You can’t unplug it from the USB port without a physical key. This kind of security might seem a bit archaic for the modern sophistication of computers, but hey, whatever works right?
It’s kind of like a lock on top of a lock when you think about it. Not only does it stop people from plugging into your USB ports, it keeps your peripherals in place as well. Think about it. How can somebody steal a keyboard that they can’t unplug from your tower? If you’re interested in this particular type of lock, check out USB port locks.
The truth is that most computers can be kept virus-free with a little education and common sense. Teach your employees about the dangers of opening questionable files and transferring data between a work computer and personal device. Most people are unaware that viruses can be transported on all sorts of media, even music and picture files. No one wants to be responsible for causing a network crash because they uploaded the latest audio from last night’s episode of The Voice. Let your co-workers know about potential threats, and I’m sure they’ll be eager to help protect themselves and the business.