Is your USB drive protected?

A USB drive is a convenient method of storing and sharing or transferring files, such as presentations, spreadsheets and documents.

And it's important to ensure cyber safety because:

  1. USB drives can be used to distribute malware
  2. if a USB drive is misplaced, lost or stolen, sensitive information can be disclosed

What can a “Rogue” USB drive do?

A malicious USB device can be deliberately placed where you will find it. Plugging it into your computer can lead to malware being installed (sometimes without us even knowing).

If you find a USB drive – don’t plug it into your computer. Please hand it into the Library Service Desk so they can ensure it is safe or attempt to locate the owner of the device.

Protecting your USB from risks

USB drives lack basic protection and if the USB is misplaced, lost or stolen, sensitive data may be fall into the wrong hands and be inadvertently disclosed.

Protecting data on USB drives can be easily achieved:

  1. Ensure the physical safety regarding the USB:
    • don’t plug unknown USB drives into your computer
    • use secure USB drives when possible – some new models have fingerprint authentication
    • use USB drives from reputable sources — avoid shady third party suppliers or USB drives handed out at conferences
    • keep your computer software and anti-virus up to date – this helps protect against malware if it happens to be on a USB
  2. Remove files no longer required.
  3. Use encryption.

Encryption can be set for the entire drive or by setting a password on just a file itself on the USB.

A handy hint: if you only decrypt the files on a USB, keep a simple text document (unencrypted) that includes contact details details if the USB is lost.

Windows based encryption for documents and USB drives

Encrypting Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, PPT) is easy:

  • when the file is open, select ‘File’ from the top menu, then ‘protect document’ and ‘encrypt with password’

Encrypting a USB Drive with Windows Bitlocker is easy:

  • install the USB
  • open File Explore, right click on the USB drive and select ‘’Turn on Bitlocker’ then proceed to set a password

This encrypts the entire USB drive and a password is needed to view or access files.

Apple Mac based encryption

Encrypting Mac based Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, PPT) is easy:

  • when the file is open, select ‘Review’ from the window menu, then ‘protect – protect document’
  • from here you can set separate passwords for opening and editing documents

Encrypting a File or Folder Mac Native Encryption is easy — but it may take a few extra steps:

  • insert USB and ensure you have backed up your content
  • you may be able to ‘right click’ or ‘ctrl-click’ on the icon on the desktop – click ‘encrypt’
  • if the option to encrypt is not available, launch ‘disk utility’ and choose your USB. Name the device, ‘Format = Mac OS Extended (Journaled)’ and ‘Scheme = GUID Partition Map’*. From here, you will be able to ‘right-click’ or ‘ctrl – click’ on the USB icon and select ‘encrypt’

Remember the encryption password!

The password you set is case sensitive – remember it as there is no way of accessing the document or USB without it!

Report a security incident

Report a phishing incident, password compromise, ransomware or other suspicious activity.

Need help?

General enquiries

Access the Service Catalogue to see the full list of cyber security services available.

Or you can ask our friendly staff about IT products and services. Contact us by phone, email or chat.

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(07) 3735 5555 Brisbane

(07) 5552 5555 Gold Coast

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