- Moving files from one computer to another
- Keeping a secondary copy of important files
- Holding software executables, like anti-malware or internet browsers, to install on computers with malware or other issues that make it challenging to install software in traditional ways
- Sharing large files with others that email filters traditionally block
Why USB Drives are Effective, but also Dangerous
USB flash drives come with a large variety of onboard storage, ranging from small and almost disposable to larger application and function. They are compact and light meaning they are portable, and easily fit into laptop bags and desk drawers. Additionally, the USB standard is widely accepted across platforms. This means most devices, whether computers or laptops, running Windows or Mac operating systems have available ports.
When you do not know who has touched a USB drive, or if you cannot verify every person that has had access to the drive and what they have done, you need to be cautious. In most situations, it is best to never use free USB drives. If you do, wait until after scanning it for malware. It is especially important not to plug these drives into a networked business computer. Malware, like Ransomware, can traverse mapped network drives and cause harm to much more than the computer the drive is physically plugged into.
Whatever ways you use USB flash drives, whether for personal or business use, it is good practice to maintain ownership of the drive at all times. Do not leave it lying around on a desk or any place where it could easily be picked up, compromised and returned without your knowledge. External USB flash drives are amazing tools that can be used to transfer large files that email filters often block, or even to protect proprietary data you do not want to send over the internet. But, like any tool, use an appropriate amount of caution when using them.
As always, knowing which tool is best for specific tasks makes those tasks more efficient but being aware of any unintended consequences is also important!