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Best practices for using removable media devices

Removable media devices are portable storage devices that can be removed from one place and used in another. They come in various forms, such as DVDs, CDs, flash drives and hard drives. And as data storage becomes more innovative on digital devices, smartphones and tablets have also been seen as another effective way to store data and other media.

There's a wide range of removable media devices on the market today. Unlike non-removable hard drives, information stored on these devices is often highly transportable, making it ideal for sharing between home computers, work computers, and friends. Removable media devices can also pose security threats that are less common with other forms of data storage. The best way to protect your data is to learn how to use and secure these devices properly.

Removable media devices have revolutionized our world by expanding communication, business and entertainment. A quick look at the evolution of data storage devices will show you how much they have grown from a small floppy disk to a huge external hard drive. To continue that growth, removable media devices should enhance their security.

Common examples of removable media

“Removable media” is a term that encompasses many different types of devices. Here are some examples of standard removable media devices:

  • Optical disks: CDs and DVDs are the most popular forms of removable media. They can be used for data storage, software distribution, games and movies. Computers can read optical disks with optical disk drives.
  • USB flash drives: These small devices store and transfer files between computers. They can run applications on some operating systems without installing them on the computer's hard drive first.
  • Memory cards: These cards store information such as pictures, music files and video clips, which can then be transferred to another device such as a laptop computer or mobile phone using an adapter cable if needed.
  • External hard drives: These devices allow users to store data externally instead of inside their computer's internal memory, where it might be erased if deleted or damaged somehow by viruses or other harmful software programs.
  • Smart devices: Devices like smartphones or smart tablets also have advanced storage capabilities. Some also have connections to cloud storage services that can keep a vast memory of data.

Many of these removable media devices offer different benefits and risks. Determining which works best for your needs requires further discussion.

What are the benefits of using removable media?

Removable media devices are a great choice if you're looking for a way to store data that's easy to transport and doesn't require much effort. Here are even more advantages in detail:

  • High storage capacity: The most obvious benefit is that they can hold more data than a hard drive. This can be very useful if you transport large amounts of information from one computer to another.
  • More accessible data transportation: Removable media devices are also easier to transport than hard drives. They are smaller and lighter, so they are much easier to carry around in a briefcase or backpack.
  • Cheaper than hard drives: Flash drives and thumb drives tend to be less expensive than internal hard drives. You can buy them for as little as $10, whereas the price of an internal hard drive is often higher than $100.
  • Faster data transfer speeds: Removable media devices transfer data faster than internal hard drives because they don't need any cables or connections between each device.
  • Can be used on any computer: Removable media devices don't require specific software or drivers to work correctly; this makes them excellent for transferring files between two computers or laptops (even if their operating systems are different).
  • Easy to use: Most removable devices are easy to use — simply plug it in or insert it into your computer and find its storage under your computer’s settings. You can also easily drag any data you wish in and out of its application.

Although these benefits are plentiful, there are certain risks to storing data on removable media devices.

What are the risks of using removable media?

Removable media devices have several notable consumer safety risks, including physical loss or theft, malware, data exfiltration and viruses.

  • Physical loss/theft: These devices are small and easy to misplace or lose. If you lose your device, there is no way to recover your information other than by purchasing another device.
  • Malware: Malware is software that infects computers and steals data from the user. Removable media devices can be infected with malware if you plug them into an infected computer or use a malicious USB cable to transfer data.
  • Data exfiltration: Data exfiltration is the unauthorized data transfer from a computer system. Removable media devices can be used for this purpose since they contain information that could be valuable to hackers or criminals who want access to it.
  • viruses: viruses are programs that automatically execute when you plug a device (usually a USB drive) into your computer's USB port.
  • Lack of password protection: For more traditional devices, password protection is rare, therefore increasing the risk of infiltration from bad actors.

Even with the risks of using removable media, there are plenty of ways to use these devices safely.

Using removable media safely

Consumers can protect their data and online privacy by using removable media safely. Here are some essential best practices for doing so.

Install anti-virus software on your computer

An anti-virus program is a software application that protects your computer from viruses by scanning for and removing them. Anti-virus software can also scan for, quarantine or delete suspicious emails.

If you are using a new device such as a USB flash drive or memory card, it is important to ensure that it does not contain any viruses before connecting it to your computer. This can be done by installing an anti-virus program on your computer.

The most common type of anti-virus program scans all files when they are opened or saved on your hard drive. This ensures that any new files added to the computer will also be scanned for viruses before they are accessed by other programs or applications such as word processors or email clients.

Disable your computer's autoplay and auto-run features 

The best way to protect your computer from the autorun viruses described earlier is to disable your computer's autoplay and auto-run features before you connect a new removable media device.

Suppose your computer has one or both of these features enabled. In that case, it will automatically open the virus folder when you connect an infected removable media device such as a CD or USB drive. This can lead to infection of your system.

Password protect your removable media devices  

Data theft can be prevented by implementing access controls to password protect the data on your removable media devices. To prevent unauthorized access to your data, make sure that you're using strong passwords and keeping them in a secure place.

Make sure you know who has access to your removable media devices and don't leave them unattended or in places where they could be easily stolen (such as a workbench). If you have sensitive information on any of these devices, consider encrypting it with two-factor authentication as well.

Clear removable media devices of sensitive data when you're done with them

Removable media devices are a great way to store sensitive data, but once you've secured it elsewhere or no longer need it, you should clear the device of all sensitive data.

First, the information stored on them may be vulnerable to physical theft. For example, if someone steals your USB drive and you don't have a backup copy of the data, that person could gain access to your private information. Second, USB drives or SD cards can be infected with malware that steals information from them when inserted into a computer's USB port.

Encrypt the data

If you’re more of a tech-savvy user or you have more sensitive information on your removable media device, one way to ensure its security is to encrypt the data. Encryption is the process of translating data into code that can only be unscrambled with a specific cipher and keys.

In certain smart devices, you can also hire cloud storage service providers to encrypt your data for you. This way, you won’t have to worry about building an indestructible encryption code just to keep confidential data safe.