UK: IT Security Update - Threat Of The USB Memory Devices

Last Updated: 3 May 2007
Article by Rob Lucas

Rob Lucas specialises in Information Technology and Intellectual Property law, here he gives an insight into why memory devices should not be forgotten.

Many businesses are failing to address or even consider the implications of the growing availability and use of removable memory devices within their organisation.  This is despite increased awareness of the damage that can be caused by malware on the device or the removal or copying of sensitive material.

Many popular devices available today contain high capacities of memory (able to store many thousands of documents) and can easily connected to a computer via the USB ports.  Devices such as Memory Sticks plug directly into a computer’s USB port and many computers helpfully hold the driver information necessary to quickly recognise the device and make the transfer of data readily available.  Other examples of devices designed to hold great quantities of data and which are recognised by computers are MP3 players such as iPods, digital cameras, mobile telephones and CDs.  These devices are commonly brought into almost businesses premises on a daily basis whether in the possession of employees, customers and suppliers. 

Notwithstanding this there are very few businesses which incorporate safeguards to check what devices are coming in and going out and, more importantly what is stored on them and if they are connected to the business’s network.  This lax security and the failure to even consider the issue means that a business can be threatened by the removal of sensitive data or the introduction of malware or unlawful content.

Some organisations such as the MoD have banned staff from bringing iPods onto Ministry premises but the vast majority of organisations and businesses have no policies in place to prevent employees using any memory devices.  This seems at odds with the high number of businesses that have experienced some form of network disruption or electronic crime.

Some threats, such as the introduction of malware, are more obvious and there is the clear concern that firewalls and anti-malware defences are bypassed.  This threat is increased by the fact that one device may be used on a number of computers.  Other threats range from the downloading of pirate files onto a work PC, such as MP3 files copied from a home CD, to the introduction of pornography - as the business could become liable for any offences committed and be involved in subsequent litigation.  Software could also be installed on a work PC without the appropriate licence, creating a liability for the business or which could conflict with existing software causing network problems. 

With the great capacity for data storage on modern devices the greatest threat may be posed by what is removed from the business.  A business’s accounts, customer database or new product details can be easily removed without the knowledge of the business.  The copying to the memory device could take seconds in view of the high transfer rates modern devices support and can be conducted in the privacy of an office or meeting room by anyone with sufficient level access, or on a work PC left on without the user present. 

Businesses can take steps to protect themselves.  USB ports can be disabled, software can be installed to generate alerts when USB devices are attached and computers can be turned off or users logged off when away from the computer in question. 

Businesses should also consider introducing a policy on the use of memory devices.  This has to be weighed against the great benefits these devices, when used properly, can bring to a business in the form of the easy storage, retrival and transport of data.  The fact that a Memory Stick can easily be carried in a pocket can mean the device is less likely to be a target of theft than, for example, a laptop computer.  Even if stolen or lost, the data can be encrypted and carried in that form, to lessen the damage.  However, it is important that businesses are aware of what data is leaving their premises and ultimately, their control.

Rob Lucas specialises in the complex laws surrounding the latest advances in information technology. He has advised household name companies and governmental bodies on the implications presented by these advances, giving both technical and practical guidance.


This expanding practice serves predominantly West Yorkshire clients across a broad spectrum of company commercial work, as well as litigation, property and private client services.

The firm has continued to develop and attract lawyers from established commercial firms to add further strength and depth.

Types of work undertaken: Company and commercial work includes all aspects of company law including management buy-outs, mergers and acquisitions and commercial agreements. Commercial litigation expertise has also expanded, covering all types of contracts and disputes. The firm handles complex building and construction disputes for clients nationally.

The firm has considerable experience in employment law, dealing with contracts of employment and their termination, unfair dismissal, redundancy, discrimination, and harassment.

The firm’s commercial property department continues to grow, covering site acquisitions and disposals, schemes of development, planning aspects and commercial development. House and business sales and purchases and leases and tenancy agreements are dealt with.

The addition of the sports team has opened up new markets and the department is advising professional sportsmen and women in relation to their personal legal affairs, whether in relation to estate planning, property or family matters.

The private client department handles work for high-net-worth individuals, including estate and tax planning, probate, wills and trusts.

Last Cawthra Feather intends to maintain its strategy of expansion in the company and commercial fields. It also expects to develop new areas of expertise through its policy of bringing in outside talent to complement established strengths.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.