A study of remnant data found on USB storage devices offered for sale on the Australian second hand market in 2011
Security Research Centre, Edith Cowan University
School of Computer and Security Science
The uptake of USB storage has mainly replaced previous portable media. With the evolution of USB storage devices, increased importance is placed on this technology in both the private and commercial worlds. USB storage capacity has increased tremendously in recent decades, with capacities of 16 megabytes in early models expanding to as much as 256 gigabytes today. The relative low cost of these devices, together with their robustness, low power consumption, excellent response rates, non-volatility and ease of transport, have increased their accessibility and revolutionised the potential uses of the device. The study obtained second hand USB storage devices to determine whether there were traces of information or data and if they had been effectively wiped. If fragments of data on the USB storage devices were present, the study further scrutinised whether the data retained was of significant volume or of enough sensitivity to the previous owner to be of significant value to anyone with a malicious intent. The research found that in the majority of the cases, the USB storage devices retained a significant amount of identifiable information. As with the outcomes from the previous study carried out in 2009, the USB storage devices, owned by both individuals and organisations, failed to meet their regulatory or legal obligations of wiping their USB storage devices.