BYOD Encryption: Personal Flashdrive Breached IRS Employees’ Info, 20K Affected.

BYOD encryption is not just for ensuring smartphone security and tablet protection.  Flashdrives are devices that employees bring from home, too, and have been at the center of some remarkable data breaches.  And, it doesn’t look like they’ll be going away soon.

According to a short blurb at, the IRS has experienced a little data breach that affects 20,000 people who work (or have worked) out of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.  The Internal Revenue Service Commissioner has admitted that employees (going back to 2007, possibly earlier) were affected when an unencrypted thumb drive was plugged into an unsecured home network.

The article raises more questions than it answers.  For example, how did the IRS find out about the data breach?  And how was the employee behind the data breach able to carry it out?

USB Encryption

There are certain offices in the US where, if you look closely, you’ll find the coppery profile of Abraham Lincoln superglued over computers’ USB ports.  Pennies, or any other metal for that matter, are effective and cheap physical barriers that prevent the use of USB ports (and consequently the use of USB devices).  The pragmatism of this pseudo-temporary solution became less so as the years passed, and USB cables were used for powering pretty much all computer accessories.

What to do?  How can one prevent the exchange of data via the USB port while allowing its use for other purposes, such as powering a seat warmer or charging a smartphone?  The answer could very well be the use USB encryption software.

For example, file or folder encryption could be used to secure a USB flashdrive, ensuring that the device is only usable within the office.  Connect it to a home computer and the files show up as unformatted, unstructured data that cannot be read.

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