Reducing Thumbdrives' Security Risk

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Investor's Business Daily says "Hackers always are on the lookout for the most vulnerable spot on your personal computers. These days, that weakest link might be your flash thumb drive." Using IBD's suggestions as a starting point, we've dug deeper to help you reach the glorious state of USB security a little faster.

Disable Windows AutoPlay for USB drives. USB drives are recognized automatically by Windows, and recent Windows versions include a feature called AutoPlay, which can be used to launch malware. To prevent AutoPlay from running on some or all drives on Windows XP, download the legendary TweakUI PowerToy and use its AutoPlay option to disable AutoPlay as desired. For more details, see my article "When Windows XP AutoPlay Goes Wrong, and How to Fix It." Disabling AutoPlay in Windows Vista is trickier, since it's done on a content, rather than drive basis. However, the recommendations in this HowtoGeek.com article will help you knock AutoPlay out - easily.

Use security software. IBD recommends that corporations with sensitive assets keep an eye on USB device with tracking programs such as Lumension Security's Sanctuary Device Control and Centennial Software's DeviceWall .

Another approach is to use Group Policy settings to prevent any use of USB thumbdrives, or to make them available as read-only devices . You can also use Registry edits to restrict access.

To learn how to encrypt your USB flash drives, including a free cross-platform method, go to page 2.

Encrypt your files. If you will only be exchanging files with other Windows XP or Vistas users, USB thumbdrives featuring hardware-based 256-bit AES encryption from vendors such as Kanguru Solutions , Kingston Technology and Lexar Media will provide the highest level of security. However, if you have a mixture of MacOS and Windows PCs, consider the Lexar JumpDrive Secure II Plus , which offers software-based 128-bit AES encryption.

If you prefer to build your own security solution that can work with any USB drive and all popular operating systems, take a look at TrueCrypt , a free open-source disk encryption program for Windows Vista/XP, MacOS X, and Linux .

Stopping the Thumbdrive Threat - Your Way

So, what's your favorite method for preventing thumbdrive security headaches (we bet that applying HeadOn isn't one of them)? Have you found yourself up a creek because you let a thumbdrive get away? Ever leave one behind at a client's office (I did, but he was honest and called me right away). Let us know via the comments section.

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