Protecting USB Ports: AMD Accuses Former Employees Of Stealing Documents.

AMD, Advanced Micro Devices, has filed suit against a number of former employees.  The claim is that they stole “thousands of confidential documents” ( by copying AMD secrets to external storage devices, and took these to rival NVIDIA.  Stunts like these are why external disk encryption is part of AlertBoot’s Mobile Security solution: don’t only encrypt the contents of your computer, also encrypt USB media that’s connected to it.

Forensic Revelations: Two Storage Devices Connected to Computers

Neither the story nor the legal paperwork mentions that the storage devices were USB devices.  However, line 14 of “Advanced Micro Devices, INC., v. ROBERT FELDSTEIN, MANOO DESAI, NICOLAS KOCIUK, and RICHARD HAGEN” notes that:

The last day Mr. Feldstein used his AMD computer before leaving for NVIDIA, two external storage devices were connected to his computer.

You don’t “connect” CDs or DVDs, and FireWire/1394 devices are kind of rare, so, it’s quite obvious that a USB device was used to perpetrate this particular crime.  Based on what was stolen by the accused – two licensing agreements and a document outlining AMD’s licensing strategies, as well as emails, trade secrets, technological secrets, full copies of laptop and desktop computers, among others – it must have been a combination of thumb drives as well as high capacity external drives.

AMD maintains that they “took reasonable steps to preserve the secrecy of [the] information.”  I don’t doubt it, but couldn’t they have gone a step further?

Authorizing USB Sticks to be Used on Work Computers Only

The following is not necessarily the ideal solution for all companies, but AlertBoot features a solution to the problem of outside USB devices being used in the workplace: automatically encrypt any such devices that are connected to computers protected with full disk encryption.

The primary purpose for this AlertBoot feature was to allow the secure sharing of data between two computers that had their hard drives protected with encryption software.  Sometimes, it’s just easier and quicker to pass the information using hardware, as opposed to sending it via email, ftp’ing it, or other methods that don’t involve “sneakernetting.”

An unintended consequence of this feature is that employees quickly learn not to stick any USB device into their computer’s ports, as the encrypted devices will not work outside the workplace.  At least, they won’t work without reformatting and losing all of their data in the process, which also works towards preventing data breaches.

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