It was difficult to imagine how disruptive a piece of technology it would become when the venerable thumb drive hit the market. Inexpensive, portable and easy to use, thumb drives offered up a trifecta of benefits that meant tech workers and business users alike coveted them. Better still, they hit the market at perhaps one of the most formative periods in the growth of personal technology, and filled a gap in the file sharing and personal backup space when “sneakernet” was one of the most efficient ways for people to share files.
In the two decades since thumb drives, USB flash drives, or dongles—choose your preferred term—were introduced, a lot has changed. Other technologies have come and gone, and other sneakernet solutions have fallen by the wayside (I’m looking at you, Iomega Zip Drives), but the thumb drive lives on.
So How Do They Do It?
Simply put, thumb drives are one of those rare pieces of technology that work so well that their mere existence has stunted the growth of the market they serve. After all, why bother developing something that will make file sharing easier when a simple and portable solid-state drive can get the job done for pennies on the dollar?
You could argue that cloud-based file sharing services will be the final death knell for the thumb drive and its ilk. We say maybe, but then again, maybe not. Too many corporate environments simply prohibit external services from being accessed from within their enterprise, and then there’s the problem of convenience. Need proof? Just ask two people in a meeting to share a file between their laptops. If there’s no corporate WiFi—and a lot of time there still isn’t—you’ll see an agonizing dance as the two users try (and usually fail) to agree on a common way to instantly share files.
And while the thumb drive will likely disappear one day from office environments, you can expect it to be a death by inches. They will let go only when their price point and convenience are overwhelmed by either a newer, even more disruptive technology that makes them irrelevant, or when the dangers posed by using these promiscuous little drives outweigh the benefits.
I Declare a Thumb War
Cybercriminals recognized the potential of the thumb drive early on—not only to store (and steal) sensitive documents, but also the ease with which they could be used to spread threats to normally inaccessible networks. Even the storied Stuxnet virus that has been credited with nearly taking down Iran’s nuclear power program is thought to have been introduced through an infected thumb drive. It was this potential—and the super nasty Agent.btz worm—that convinced the US Department of Defense to ban the use of portable storage devices more than a decade ago.
But the thumb drive is just half the problem. The other half is the USB ports that the devices are plugged into. The USB plug-and-play promise is what gives these portable flash drives a continued lease on life. So much are they used, and so much are they feared, that some organizations actually began gluing or caulking closed their endpoint USB ports to disallow unauthorized peripheral use.
A Green (Is for Go) Thumb
We admit it, that works. But at Interfocus we offer a better solution to the thumb drive than spending your scarce endpoint protection dollars in the adhesives section at Home Depot. We recognize that business users will continue to use technologies that allow them to work faster and more efficiently. So LanScope Cat delivers advanced threat protection that allows administrators to control the usage of not only a USB flash drive, but also other forms of portable USB storage like SD and FD cards, writable CDs, and even devices that connect via WiFi or Bluetooth. Better yet, portable storage can be assigned user permissions to provide the convenience of a thumb drive while preventing certain files or file structures from read/write operations.
And there’s more: LanScope Cat delivers full visibility into user and endpoint operations so you can see what’s happening throughout your network and so that you can secure files and systems against unauthorized use. If someone is trying to read or write to portable storage, LanScope Cat not only captures the unauthorized activity, but catalogs details on the user and files involved, and delivers comprehensive malware protection to further secure your endpoints.
In a world where IT security is too often an “all or nothing” paradigm, LanScope Cat provides the best of both worlds. You’re able to secure your enterprise against threats posed by personal portable storage without resorting to outright bans on the devices or, well, caulk. In more accessible, less secure environments you can monitor portable device usage, without the fear that users will unknowingly introduce malware or that sensitive files will wander off. While business areas with greater security will continue to lock down USB ports and ban portable storage, a policy isn’t enforceable unless you’re capable of proactively monitoring against threats. Let LanScope Cat give your executives and administrators the peace of mind they demand—knowing that their endpoints are continually protected.