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Sophos, leading developer of security and anti-virus software released a report detailing the dangerously high number of viruses found on 'lost' USB memory sticks. A large number of memory sticks were offered by Australian rail operator, Rail Corporation New South Wales, in one of their annual lost property auctions and a team from Sophos bid for them.
The report highlights the amount of important personal data that was found on the unencrypted keys, along with a not unsurprisingly large amount of business data. The warning however was just how many were infected with viruses, almost 33 out of the 50 purchased. Although this figure appears at first quite alarming, none of the viruses were too serious a threat to any computers likely to be compromised by a commuter's 'lucky find' and would be dealt with by anti-virus software as long as it's been kept up to date.
The more worrying aspects to the story and largely ignored by the Sophos report was that in this auction, they paid almost double what the USB sticks would have cost new. In other words they were bidding against one or more opponents determined to own these lost sticks. Obviously there are people out there who understand the value of information left on memory sticks, perhaps far more so than the individuals carrying them round.
Some commentators have even questioned if all were genuine 'lost' keys and suggest some might be Trojan horses, waiting for some unsuspecting individual to 'find' and insert into their home or work computer without realizing the danger it poses.
At Quiss we work hard to build strong, reliable IT systems for our clients, but this event just goes to highlight the weakest point in any system is the individuals that use it; and that applies to security, just as it does to printer drivers.
If you move a lot of data around, from business presentations to family photos, now might be a good time to encrypt your memory sticks and look at your data security requirements - fortunately we can help, so get in touch.
written by our Technical Manager, David Pagett