The ultimate guide to USB drive security

Niamh Lynch


flashdrive.pngUSB sticks, memory keys, pendrives. It doesn’t really matter what you call them, memory sticks are useful creatures. It’s precisely this usefulness, though, that leads to their major weakness: most people use them all the time without a second thought. They swap them between colleagues, lend them to friends and stick them into unfamiliar computers. Is it any wonder they are a major security risk?!

If you are an occasional user of a memory stick, it might be enough to run a context menu scan when you plug it in. Of course, this option has to be facilitated by your regular anti-virus, but most of the top ones, AVG and Kaspersky for example, offer this tool. Just find the memory stick in My Computer, right click, and chose Scan with….


If you are a more frequent user, you might want a specific anti-virus that targets memory sticks and USB drives. The trial version of USB Disk Security only offers one option, but it’s a good one – real-time monitoring of your computer for security risks from USB devices. It sits in the taskbar until you connect USB stick and lets you know if it there’s a problem.

Panda USB vaccine is more of a preventative measure. It allows you to vaccinate your USB drive and hopefully prevent it from catching or spreading viruses in the future. It works by disabling the autorun function, commonly used by nasties to infect your system. Obviously this program isn’t going to work if you are already infected, but if you’re not, you may as well give it a whirl. Mx One Antivirus, meanwhile, has a double advantage – you can install it on your computer, to monitor devices that you connect, or on your USB stick, so you can monitor any computer that you plug the stick into.

Programs like Mx One and similar will definitely keep your pendrive free from infection, but what about keeping your info safe from prying eyes? For a start, you can use your USB key to lock your laptop or computer when you’re not around. Once USB PC Lock Pro has been installed, all you’ll have to do to is stick in a USB flash drive and choose what you want blocked. It can even lock individual programs, so you can pick and chose your blocking in a way that locking the computer with Ctrl + L doesn’t facilitate.


USB Flash Security will apply a password to the flashdrive itself, so that prying eyes are kept away if the stick falls into enemy hands. Jon learned the hard way that the installation is a little complicated, however, so you’ve been warned! If a simple password isn’t enough, what about bringing out the big guns? Rohos Mini Drive will not only create an encrypted partition on your USB stick, it will also password protect it. It’s about as safe as a USB stick gets; all you need to do is make sure you don’t forget the password…

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