Home » Cyber Security » Device Security » How Can Your USB Device Pose Security Risks to You

How Can Your USB Device Pose Security Risks to You

Disclosure: All of our articles are unbased, well researched, and based on a true picture of the story. However we do sometimes get commissions from affiliate sites. Our readers get the best discount from buying from our links. Here is our complete affiliate disclosure.

A Universal Serial Bus – USB device is a helpful external data storage device. It includes a flash memory which can store as little as 256 MB up to 256 GB. However, this USB stick can prove to be a major security risk. People started to consider USB devices as a security threat after Edward Snowden used it to copy secrets from the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Steps to Alleviate Security Risks Posed By USB Device

In this article, we are focusing on the different security risks which can occur following misuse or a USB flash drive.

The risks you face include various major security incidents, USB-specific malware, and viruses. However, these security risks can be alleviated by using some good security practices. It is highly important for you to take security steps for your USB flash drive.

Losing a USB Device

The most common security risks concerned with the USB flash devices occur majorly when the device is lost.

However, if you have a password-protected or, still better, an encrypted USB flash device then your concerns can be minimized. Moreover, if you have your data backed up somewhere else then you will be secure enough. So even if your device is lost or stolen then your data will remain safe as no one will be able to break the encryption that you have set on your USB device.

In order to encrypt your USB device then you may either use encryption software or buy a device with an encrypted partition.

However, losing a USB device without any password and encryption protection is an entirely other matter. Depending on the importance of the data stored on the USB device your lost USB device can cost you your entire fortune. However, it is just your resume stored on the USB device then you should not be overly concerned but if that device has very personal documents stored then these concerns will be very high.

Therefore the simplest way to avoid losing your USB device is to make sure that it is stored securely with your own self.  Wherever you place the USB device securely you should also make sure that it should not be damaged by any excessive shock or pressure as it will result in corruption of or breakage of data.

Finding a USB Flash Drive

A USB flash drive if found unnaturally then there are almost 50 percent chances that you will insert it into your computer. You might be thinking that it is free stuff so why not utilize it for your own purpose. Unfortunately, this USB flash drive can be a trap as well and can easily trap you into loading some malware into your computer.

A nontech-savvy would never check the contents of a USB flash drive but a security expert would do so. In order to check the contents of such an unnaturally found USB flash drive then secure PCs with specialized security software should be used.

Various autorun malware can be avoided from infecting your PC if any anti-virus software is already protecting your system. But this is only possible if your system is up-to-date otherwise there will still be chances of malware infecting your system.

Therefore, it is better to leave alone any USB flash drive that you find unnaturally. You can also put out a call on the social media for the lost device’s owner. But you should never plug it in.

Giving a USB Device to a Friend

If you have a USB device and you just bought a new one then you might be having second thoughts about your older USB. You might be thinking either to sell your older USB device or about giving it away. The important thing for you should not be the dreams of earning a small profit rather you should be thinking about data security.

When selling out or giving away a USB device, you should make sure that the entire contents have been deleted. The data should be removed securely and only after complete validation it should be handed over to a stranger or any friend.

Moreover, there are several different methods available for securely wiping off flash-based media from a USB flash drive. However, every read and write cycle will result in disk aging. Therefore, it is best to simply wipe-and-bin older drives as they might not simply last long enough in the hands of the new owner.

USB-Specific Malware

Above we have considered the risks of inserting an unnaturally found USB device into your computer. Moreover, you also need to know about the malware that can be run easily. Some malware, Trojans, and worms can be found auto-running as well. This malware will attain a good level of success if your computer is not loaded with security software.

An example of such a malware is BadUSB. This virtually undetectable malware can result in the hijacking of targeted computers. BadUSB targets an individual through an infected USB device and then seizes control of their personal computer or wherever the infected USB is inserted.

Know Your USB Device

Your USB device requires a safe and secure place from the prying eyes of hackers and snoopers. But it is also important that you recognize it in an instance even if it is present in a huge mass of various USB devices. Thus recognition of USB device is extremely vital.

Security and privacy are major concerns that revolve around the clock around a USB device. Therefore it is quite important that you do not accidentally hand over your personal USB device instead of the one intended to be handed over. If accidentally you hand over your personal USB device then chances are that it may contain sensitive data that may result in embarrassment or may also cost you your fortune. Therefore, you should keep your personal drives separate from the ones you use at work. Furthermore, you should also check the contents before handing over any USB device.

If your USB is just like any ordinary one then chances are high that you might not be able to tell them apart. However, by giving a particularly flashy or showy design like Lego or wood etc, you can easily recognize your USB device. You can also apply some sticky labels on your device but you still should consider placing your USB device in a secure place.


USB devices are passed around like silicon business cards mostly by computer users. Since we are familiar with USBs carrying malware infections thus we depend on occasional reformatting as well as anti-virus scans. This way we can securely keep our USB drives from causing the next digital epidemic. However, the security risks associated with USB devices run deeper than our imagination. Therefore, by adopting the above-mentioned good practices you can surely protect yourself from the security risks that your USB device poses to you.

Photo of author
Rebecca James is an IT consultant with forward thinking approach toward developing IT infrastructures of SMEs. She writes to engage with individuals and raise awareness of digital security, privacy, and better IT infrastructure.

Leave a Comment