With advances in technology, devices have become exponentially smaller and more powerful in their capabilities. As a result, portable devices are quickly becoming critical components for adding efficiency and convenience to many aspects of our lives. Whether it is to track our exercise habits, play music, or share information, these devices are designed to connect to a plethora of systems and even our vehicles. As these devices become more common place, we have become desensitized to their use, seldom asking ourselves whether we should be connecting them. No portable device is more relevant to this discussion than that of removable storage media, which is one of the leading causes of data loss and the transmission of malicious software within corporate networks today.
Removable media is any device capable of storing data, including USB flash storage devices, CDs, and DVDs. These devices can typically be accessed by direct connection or wirelessly through Bluetooth or WiFi technologies.
Playing a DVD of dubious origin on your computer may contain hidden hazards. Let’s say a friend or acquaintance lends you a DVD of a newly released movie that you have been wanting to see. The DVD is a copy, but otherwise the packaging doesn’t raise any particular concerns, so you think to yourself, “Maybe I can play it on my computer at lunch.” In another situation, you are at a trade show or other event, and come across USB drives laid out neatly on a coffee table in the lobby. Vendors give out free stuff all the time and this is a venue full of trustworthy professionals, right? The unfortunate truth is, unless you know the origin of any device, you cannot be certain it is safe. Be skeptical of any device you are unfamiliar with, even though it may seem tempting, such as a USB drive labeled “Payroll.”
Removable media installed with malicious software can contain hidden files which may not even be noticeable at first; the only symptom may be a slight decrease in overall system performance if at all. There are many types of malware that can lurk within these devices, waiting for an unsuspecting user to connect them to a machine. “Keyloggers,” as they are called, can record a user’s keystrokes, and may contain viruses that perform a multitude of functions, including providing remote connectivity for an attacker. Other viruses such as Worms can self-replicate through the network, infecting other devices; Crypto Ransomware can hold files for ransom by encrypting them; and Sniffers can record all communications on a network, to name a few.
Though you cannot completely avoid these types of attacks, there are some steps that can be taken to lower the risk to you and the dealership. Ensure that someone within the dealership organization is designated and trained to handle these types of issues. Report and turn over any suspicious devices to that individual if found. Globally disable the ability for removable devices to “autorun” programs upon connection. Implement Anti-Virus software which will scan connected media for viruses. If USB or other disk drives aren’t needed within your organization, globally disable the ports rendering them inoperable. To avoid unintentional loss or exposure of corporate data, encrypt all authorized storage devices using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). The specific steps to accomplishing these tasks may vary depending on your system setup. Contact your Network Administrator for further guidance.
There is no disputing that removable media plays a critical role in our modern lives. Attackers understand this cultural shift and seek to exploit both our curiosity and increasing need for ubiquitous access. If used responsibly, the benefits of using these devices can outweigh the risks. To learn how to better take control of your dealership's compliance tasks, please contact your RouteOne Business Development Manager for information on how RouteOne can help!