External storage media such as USB sticks, portable hard drives or CDs/DVDs have become part of everyday digital life by now. But what happens if these storage media with your sensitive data get lost or become infected with malware?
You can use external storage media securely by...
- encrypting sensitive data.
- securely deleting sensitive data.
- deactivating the “autorun” function.
- protecting all connected systems with antivirus software.
The dangers of external storage media
External storage media have the benefit of mobility - they fit into any handbag or jacket pocket, so you can easily take them along anywhere. However, this also poses some risks which can be tackled with the following measures:
- Loss or theft: Encrypt your sensitive data (see below) and keep a copy of these data at home.
- Lifespan: External storage media are a good means for backing up your data. Still, they don’t last forever. USB sticks, hard drives and CDs/DVDs are generally expected to last 10 years - so make sure you get replacements in good time!
- Readability: Make sure that the required systems and readers are available so that you can still read your data later - it is no good to have data carriers you can no longer read.
- Malware: Viruses, worms and Trojans etc. which hide in external storage media can actually infect your whole system once you connect them to it. You should therefore deactivate the autorun function (see below) and use anti-virus software.
- Disposal: If you no longer use your external storage media and would like to dispose of them, please make sure to securely delete this storage medium.