USB flash drives are a remarkably convenient way to store your information. With the invention of these small, affordable drives, users can easily transport essential information from one computer to another. Their size enables users to carry these drives on keychains or in bags, and each year their storage capacity seems to grow. These popular devices are not without their disadvantages, however, and it is important to weigh both potential gains and losses when considering whether they will serve your needs.
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Adrian Kingsley-Hughes reports that the security firm Syss has found an encryption weakness in most USB flash drives. This weakness exposes all of your data, regardless of previously established authentication programs. According to Kingsley-Hughes, the major producers of the flash drives have either issued a recall or updated software, but users should check their drives and proceed cautiously with sensitive data.
The strength of USB flash drives may also be their weakness. Because the drives are designed to be as small as possible to assist portability, it also means that they are much easier to lose. Whether they are lost among a bag's contents, drawer or busy office, finding these simple-looking devices may be difficult. The potential for sliding between couch cushions or falling out of a pocket is much greater than with larger technological devices.
The flash drive's design usually involves a retractable USB plug. As with any moving parts, wear and tear may damage or break the USB plug. And because little protects the flash drive, there is also the potential for bending the relatively soft metal of the USB plug, which renders the device useless.
Over time flash drive files can become corrupted and unreadable. This may be a result of sharing the drive with many different computers and computer systems. Some companies, like USB Drive Recovery.com, offer drive recovery software that may correct the corruption and rescue lost files, but there are no guarantees. Conversely, flash drives may infect computers. Michael Horowitz, in his CNET article "USB Flash Drives Need a Condom," reminds users that flash drives are an easy way to spread viruses and corrupt computer systems; he recommends scan programs to investigate drives and protect your computer.