Lost Your USB Device? Check the Local Dry Cleaners


The Texas-based data encryption company Credant Technologies earlier this week released a press report claiming that a survey it had conducted in the UK indicated that over 9,000 USB drives/memory sticks are left at local UK commercial cleaners each year, posing a security risk.

Sadly, the company didn't try to figure out how many are lost, like socks, in washers or dryers at home.

Last September, a similar survey was conducted by the company among taxi drivers in London and New York, which it claimed showed that over 12,500 hand held devices such as laptops, iPods and memory sticks are forgotten at the back of taxis every 6 months.

In related stories, the German software encryption company Steganos released results of its small sample survey claiming that "78% of computer users never encrypt emails; a fifth are â''unsureâ'' if they have encryption software installed; a third admit to losing USB keys."

Then in a story appearing in ZDNet about two weeks ago, a USB memory stick containing 6,630 prisoner details including surnames, age range, prison number, cell location, prison-clinic appointment times and review dates was lost by the Central Lancashire Primary Care Trust in the UK on the 30th of December. The story said that, "The stick went missing as it was being taken from one area of the prison to another â'' from the medical clinic to the administration department â'' to be backed up."

The memory stick was encrypted, but a Post-It note with the password to access the information was attached to it.


Finally, earlier this week, Australian newspapers carried a story about a used MP3 player that a New Zealander bought in an Oklahoma thrift shop that contained 60 confidential files of US military personnel, some with service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The man later turned it over to US Embassy officials in Wellington, who gave him a new, much improved MP3 player in exchange. He was reportedly very happy with his new MP3 player.


Risk Factor

IEEE Spectrum's risk analysis blog, featuring daily news, updates and analysis on computing and IT projects, software and systems failures, successes and innovations, security threats, and more.

Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City