Employees are aware of USB drive security risks, but don’t follow best practices

Employees are aware of the risks associated with inadequate USB drive security – yet their employers aren’t mandating following best practices, according to a report by Apricorn.

USB drive security risks

“The State of USB Data Protection 2019: Employee Spotlight” survey report, which polled nearly 300 employees across industries including education, finance, government, healthcare, legal, retail, manufacturing, and power and energy, examined year-over-year trends of USB drive usage, policies and business drivers.

The report reveals that while employees have been the main driving factor behind the use of USB drives in the workplace (according to 68 percent of respondents), employees have also been placing their organizations at significant risk. For example:

  • While 91 percent of respondents claimed that encrypted USB drives should be mandatory, a full 58 percent of respondents confirmed that they regularly use non-encrypted USB drives
  • Meanwhile, although 64 percent of organizations have a policy outlining acceptable use of USB devices, 64 percent of respondents said their employees use USB drives without obtaining advance permission to do so
  • Furthermore, in yet another example of employees discarding best practices and policies, nearly half of employees lost a USB drive without notifying appropriate authorities about the incident

Beyond these unfavorable findings, one of the most alarming statistics was the fact that employees are taking more security shortcuts than ever before. By comparing the key results of this survey against Apricorn’s previous USB data protection report, several troubling trends emerge, including:

  • A higher percentage of employees are using USB drives without obtaining advance permission to do so: 64 percent in 2018, compared to 57 percent in 2017
  • There has been an increase in the percentage of employees that aren’t notifying appropriate authorities after losing a USB drive: 48 percent in 2018 versus 39 percent in 2017
  • In another example of employees unknowingly putting their organizations at risk, there was an uptick in the proportion of employees that use non-encrypted USB drives, such as those received “free” at conferences: 58 percent in 2018, compared to 56 percent in 2017

One encouraging note that indicates a positive trend: there was a 24 percent drop in the number of organizations regularly using non-encrypted USB devices (58 percent in 2018, compared to 82 percent in 2017). It is crucial that this percentage continues to drop, considering that the Ponemon Institute estimated that the average total cost of a data breach increased by six percent between 2017 and 2018, to $3.86 million per breach.

USB drive security risks

“Organizations need to be more vigilant than ever about data protection, and this isn’t simply due to the increased sophistication of attackers, but also the significant unintended risk organizations are exposed to by their employees,” said Mike McCandless, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Apricorn.

“Our report confirms that while employees have good intentions for USB device security, their employers need to implement strict security policies to defend against the shortcuts employees will invariably take. And beyond policies and procedures, organizations would be wise to reinforce that their employees use encrypted USB drives that require a unique PIN.”