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Insecure Removable Devices Leaves Data at Risk

August 3rd, 2006

Reflex Magnetics warns that despite the increased use of removable media devices to assist mobile working, bad management of the devices leaves businesses and consumers data at risk of loss and theft.

The study revealed that 61.5% of memory stick owners use their devices to transfer data to their PC; 53% to their laptop; 5% to their games console; 5% to their mp3 players and 2.6% to their Smartphone/Blackberry. These statistics show that memory sticks are becoming increasingly important, providing individuals with flexibility over where and how they work in addition to reducing overhead and personal equipment costs, such as personal printers.

“The growing transformations in the market for highly portable devices, where they facilitate the rapid transfer of data, raises serious questions about the opportunities for the liberation of corporate data, the potential for the transfer of destructive viruses and the serious threat of identity fraud following the loss of theft of such devices carrying personal details,” said Professor Michael Hulme, director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Technology and Changes.

Whilst simple storage devices such as USB keys have become cheaper and easier to use, more and more devices have emerged which store even larger quantities of data. Because the primary function of devices such as digital cameras, MP3 players and mobile phones, is not likely to be data storage, the unintentional release of data upon sale or loss of such equipment, is not being considered by users.

“With the cost of these removable media devices being constantly driven down individuals are failing to make the connection between the value of the data stored on such devices and the level of care that needs to be taken to secure it,” said Neil Larkins, director of Reflex Magnetics. “The study highlights the need for an education process, to ensure these businesses and end-users understand that devices should be properly managed and that full consideration is given to the effect of the loss or theft of the data.”

With the worldwide portable media market expected to reach 187.7 million units in 2006 (Gartner: June 2006) the increased desirability of portable media players makes them much more susceptible to theft, so any important data saved on the devices would be lost should they become victims of theft. Because these devices are rarely encrypted confidential business and customer information is available to anyone who picks up the devices. Individual users who use the devices to store personal information such as bank account numbers and passwords put themselves at serious risk of identity theft and fraudulent use of their personal details.

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