The Rule of Thumbs

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No one would dispute how convenient thumb drives are, or how theyve made the transfer of files form one machine to another so easy. These drives offer numerous advantages over other portable storage devices. They are more compact, and operate much faster. The new thumb drives using USB 2.0 operate faster than an optical disc drive, while storing a larger amount of data in a much smaller space.

They also have no moving parts, making them more robust than mechanical hard drives. These types of drives use the USB mass storage standard, supported by modern operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and other Unix-like systems. However, that convenience comes with risk.

FACT: The flash-memory market was until recently one of the fastest-growing segments of the global semiconductor industry. The total worldwide revenue of the market in 2008 is estimated to be about $12 billion.

The recent news of this significant cyber incident at the Pentagon has called into question the use of thumb drives. According to one report, senior military leaders said the malware infection incident affected the U.S. Central Command networks. This incident included systems both in the headquarters and in the combat zones. Thumb drives are reportedly banned within the U.S. Department of Defense. The ban comes after they were identified as the most likely point of compromise that transferred what has been termed a global virus according to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. Inside sources leaked a message distributed to employees saying that all flash drives, whether purchased or provided by the Department of Defense, would be confiscated.

This is a problem not just for DoD, but for all computer users, so tell us about your use of thumb drives. Many organizations have policies governing the use of thumb drives. What best describes your situation? ( polls)

-- Kevin Coleman

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