An investigation into remnant data on USB storage devices sold in Australia creating alarming concerns
Taylor and Francis Ltd.
School of Science
USB storage devices, also known as USB sticks, pen drives, flash drives, thumb drives, and key drives, have replaced many other portable storage media. USB devices are popular given their robustness, low power consumption, rapid response rates, non-volatile nature, capacity, and ease of transportation. However, the data on these devices are most often unsecured and not deleted when disposed of. Using a quantitative and case study method to assess the extent and potential impact of the problem, this study obtained second-hand USB devices, purchased from eBay Australia to determine the data and erasure status of the devices using forensic acquisition and analysis techniques. Where data fragments were recovered, the volume and potential sensitivity of were investigated. The findings from the research show that in most cases, the USB devices held a large volume of data, were owned by both individuals and organizations, and were used to store highly sensitive and confidential data. This data were neither permanently nor securely destroyed prior to disposal (by sale) of the devices. Such incidents highlight the failure to meet regulatory obligations regarding privacy legislation in Australia. The paper provides recommendations for secure disposal of data from USB devices.