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5 Ways Data Can Be Stolen From Your PC or Network

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Got your data security sorted? Reckon there’s no way anyone can steal data from your computer or network devices? Great!

That must mean you’ve solved the worst security problem plaguing corporations around the world. In truth, data security is complex and difficult. If you think you’re completely secure, it probably means there are vulnerabilities you just aren’t aware of.

That’s why it’s important to know the following ways data can be stolen from your PC or network drives.

1. USB Stick

Image Credit: TEL0000/Wikimedia Commons They fit in your pocket or hang on your keyring.

They’re compact, easily hidden, and even able to be disguised 3 Ways to Disguise a USB Drive 3 Ways to Disguise a USB Drive USB drives aren’t that secure, even if you add some basic password protection to them. Instead, go ninja and hide them plain sight, by making a masterful USB drive disguise. Read More . But USB flash sticks are a massive security risk 5 Ways Your USB Stick Can Be a Security Risk 5 Ways Your USB Stick Can Be a Security Risk USB drives are useful for so many different things, but they can be problematic and dangerous if you don’t take the right precautions. Read More .

For instance, they can be lost or stolen. Giving one away that you think might be totally empty could result in secrets being uncovered with recovery software. There is USB-specific malware that delivers worms and Trojans to host computers, just waiting to steal login information and sensitive data.

USB sticks are also easily confused with each other. It’s not uncommon, in a work environment, to take the wrong stick home. As long as your PC is unlocked, anyone with a USB stick can steal data from it.

They simply plug it in, move the data across, remove it, and leave. It’s that easy; far simpler than stealing physical documents. Tech giant IBM applied a new security policy in 2018: a total ban on USB storage devices.

Unfortunately, this seems far too late.

2. Smartphone or Tablet

Image Credit: Marco Verch/Flickr While they’ve banned USB storage devices, IBM has not announced any limits to that other popular portable storage medium: a smartphone.

When set to mass storage mode, a smartphone can appear as a portable hard disk or USB drive to your PC. Tablets and old MP3 players are recognised in a similar way. For IBM users, this affords an instant answer to their problem of being unable to use USB sticks.

Perhaps the company recognises that they can detect what data was transferred to what device, knowing that phones can be associated with people in a way that USB sticks cannot. Either way, anyone can copy data on an unlocked, unattended computer using just a phone and a USB cable.

3. Flash Memory Card

5 Ways Data Can Be Stolen From Your PC or Network

Smaller than a USB stick, flash memory can be surreptitiously to steal data. Many devices these days feature card readers, often enabling the inserted media to sit flush with the edge of the reader. They can be seemingly invisible.

As with a USB flash device, these little memory cards can be easily pocketed, but rely on an unlocked and unattended computer. Picture this: a friend uses your computer to look through the photos on their camera’s memory card. While they might not have the intention of stealing data themselves, malware can be introduced from the card onto your computer.

All of the risks of USB sticks apply here.

4. Portable HDD or NAS Device

5 Ways Data Can Be Stolen From Your PC or NetworkImage Credit: Marco Verch/Flickr Other risks to your PC’s data exist from portable hard disk drives (HDD).

Again, these can be easily connected via USB. But there is another type of HDD that can put your data at risk. Network Attached Storage is increasingly popular as a means for storing data on a local network, usually at home.

NAS boxes are affordable, and can offer data resilience… you could even build your own using a Raspberry Pi. The thing is, if you’re storing all of your vital data on a NAS box, it’s at immediate risk. Far smaller than a personal computer, a NAS box can be effortlessly connected from your home network, and taken.

Fortunately, you have a solution here: keep your NAS box located out of reach, preferably in a locked environment.

5. Other Removable Storage Media

5 Ways Data Can Be Stolen From Your PC or Network We’ve looked at the most common compact storage media so far, but there are others that you should be aware of.

Writable CDs and DVDs are perhaps the most obvious, although ZIP disks and REV disks (from Iomega) are still used in some organizations. These are smaller (REV disks are essentially hard disk drive cassettes), and therefore easier to conceal. Meanwhile, although unlikely to get into the hands of most users, tape media is used for mass storage, backup and data recovery in many businesses, and on some home servers.

These of course need to be held securely, as they typically hold a copy of the entire contents of a server. Leaving tapes where they can be picked up and taken would mean losing data from an entire server!

How to Secure and Protect Your Data

So, what data do you have on your computer? Video games?

Art work? An in-progress novel? Or something more valuable: customer data, commercially sensitive information, something that will cost you your job if lost?

Whether you’re concerned about data being stolen from your home PC or your work laptop, it is vital that you understand how it could happen. Your data is under physical risk in five ways that you should now be able to recognise:

  • USB sticks.
  • Smartphones, tablets, and MP3 players (connected over USB).
  • Flash memory cards.
  • Portable HDD and NAS devices.
  • Removable media: optical disks, removable hard disk drives, tapes.

Understanding which devices can be used to pocket data on your computer is important. Don’t let it cloud what is useful, however.

For instance, USB sticks can be turned into keys that unlock your PC 3 Tools for Turning Your USB Drive Into a Secure Unlock Key for Your PC 3 Tools for Turning Your USB Drive Into a Secure Unlock Key for Your PC Yes, it’s possible: you can turn your USB flash drive into a physical key that locks and unlocks your computer. Read More . If you’re concerned about the security of the data you’re using, consider using disk encryption. Using a work computer?

If your employer expects you to work remotely on data stored centrally, ask them about setting up a VPN. This will improve data security considerably. One last thing: although these devices can be used to steal data from your computer, they can also be used to introduce Trojans and malware.

Ensure your internet security and antivirus apps are up to date The Best Computer Security and Antivirus Tools The Best Computer Security and Antivirus Tools Need a security solution for your PC? Concerned about malware, ransomware, viruses, and intruders through your firewalls? Want to back up vital data?

Just confused about it all?

Here’s everything you need to know. Read More !

Image Credit: BrianAJackson/Depositphotos

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How to Recover Your PC Using an Android Device

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Your PC’s operating system crashed, and the only chance of recovery is an ISO file flashed to a USB stick. But if you don’t have a spare PC to create installation media with, don’t worry. Android has you covered.

Here’s how to recover your PC using your phone or tablet.

Your PC Is Toast: What Now?

We’ve all been there: your PC won’t load. Perhaps the operating system was compromised by a virus, or the hard disk is failing and needs replaced. There’s data you need to recover, but you have no way to burn a recovery disk.

You may think your PC is the only device you have that is capable of downloading and burning ISO files (disk images saved as a single file). Or is it? If you have an Android phone or tablet on hand running Android 3.1 or later, the device probably has USB On-The-Go (OTG) support What Is USB OTG?

5 Cool Ways to Use It on Android What Is USB OTG?

5 Cool Ways to Use It on Android USB OTG allows you to connect any USB device to your Android smartphone or tablet. There are so many possibilities! Read More . This means you can attach USB devices to your phone or tablet.

That includes a mouse, a keyboard, or even a USB storage device. This is the path you can use to recover your PC. Download the recovery disk ISO file, connect the USB device to your tablet or phone, and burn the ISO file using a dedicated app.

You’ve probably noticed that the USB port on your Android device is smaller than the connector on your USB drive. We’ll deal with that in due course.

Using Android Like a PC

If you have an Android phone or tablet nearby, as long as it has OTG support, there’s a good chance you can use it to fix your PC. But wait: have you diagnosed the problem?

Before proceeding with recovery, use a search engine to check what the boot issue might be Windows 10 Won’t Boot? Try This! Windows 10 Won’t Boot? Try This! A computer that can’t boot is of no use at all — check out these methods to put your PC back in action. Read More .

Think about the symptoms, what your PC did before it crashed, and how long you’ve had the problem. Taking this approach will help you to decide what path to take later when burning an ISO. For instance, you might require a dedicated recovery disk, or simply a fresh version of your preferred operating system.

However, if you’re not sure, opt for the recovery disk. As long as your Android device has enough storage space 3 Ways to Get More Storage on Android Using a microSD Card 3 Ways to Get More Storage on Android Using a microSD Card microSD cards are a great way of adding storage to your Android device — but you need to know these tricks! Read More , find a suitable disk image ISO file and download it. If you’re low on space, try a tiny Linux distro 7 Smallest Linux Distros That Need Almost No Space 7 Smallest Linux Distros That Need Almost No Space Are you strapped for hard disk space?

One solution is to install a super small Linux distro. Not sure which one to pick. We tested them so you don’t have to! Read More .

Be sure to use your home network for this, rather than mobile internet. Downloading an operating system will use several gigabytes of data, which could eat up your entire mobile allowance.

Create Bootable ISO Media With an App

Once you’ve downloaded the ISO you want, you’ll need a tool to burn it with. Several are available, but one of the most consistent is ISO 2 USB.

To use this, however, you’ll also need an OTG adapter. This is an affordable cable that you can purchase from mobile phone retailers or online. UGREEN Micro USB 2.0 OTG Cable On The Go Adapter Male Micro USB to Female USB for Samsung S7 S6 Edge S4 S3, LG G4, Dji Spark Mavic Remote Controller, Android Windows Smartphone Tablets 4 Inch (Black) UGREEN Micro USB 2.0 OTG Cable On The Go Adapter Male Micro USB to Female USB for Samsung S7 S6 Edge S4 S3, LG G4, Dji Spark Mavic Remote Controller, Android Windows Smartphone Tablets 4 Inch (Black) Buy Now At Amazon £5.99

Once connected to your phone, the OTG adapter cable will enable you to connect a USB flash drive. You can write your downloaded ISO to this destination. Begin by connecting the USB drive via the OTG cable, then tapping the first Pick button.

Choose your USB drive, then proceed to the second Pick button to choose the ISO file. Be sure to accept Android’s permissions requests throughout; you’ll be asked to allow access to your media files, as well as the USB drive. With both selected, you can then tap Start to begin writing the data.

It shouldn’t take long to complete; once done, remove the USB device, insert it in your PC, and begin recovery. Remember to change the boot order in your computer’s BIOS How To Change The Boot Order On Your PC (So You Can Boot From USB) How To Change The Boot Order On Your PC (So You Can Boot From USB) What happens when you start up your PC? In most cases (and putting it very simply), after the power switch has controlled the flow of electricity to the motherboard and the fans have started up,… Read More to enable booting from USB.

Turning a Phone Into a Bootable Linux Environment

If you don’t have a USB flash drive or a USB to OTG cable, but do have a rooted Android device, you can try an alternative approach.

DriveDroid is a useful utility that lets you boot your PC directly over a USB cable using any ISO or IMG file stored on your phone. You just need your Android smartphone or tablet and a suitable cable–no flash drives required. DriveDroid is available in free and paid options.

It’s important to note that this is only an option for rooted devices. Even then, some phones may not work as intended due to kernel peculiarities. Note also that this solution requires support for USB Mass Storage on your device.

While modern versions of Android don’t support USB Mass Storage, DriveDroid’s website notes that “DriveDroid has various methods of enabling Mass Storage.”

How to Recover a PC Using DriveDroid

After installing DriveDroid, head to a desktop computer and download the ISO that you plan to use for recovery. Run DriveDroid and Grant root permissions. Next, click the Download button, and select an OS to download to your phone.

A massive selection is available, from Ubuntu to ZorinOS, Tiny Linux, Gentoo, Arch Linux, and other top Linux distros. However, if you’re trying to recover your PC, the best options are boot-repair-disk, or CloneZilla if you need to clone the contents of your dying HDD. Note that when you select an OS, you’re given a version to select.

This is typically a recent build, in 32-bit or 64-bit flavors How to Choose Between 32-bit & 64-bit Windows Operating Systems How to Choose Between 32-bit & 64-bit Windows Operating Systems When you install Windows, you can pick between the 32-bit and 64-bit version of the operating system. We help you choose the version that is right for you. Read More . Be sure to select the OS that suits the build of the PC you’re attempting to recover.

With the OS selection made, wait while it downloads to your Android device. The ISO file will save in the Downloads folder, but will also appear in the main DriveDroid screen. Select the ISO, then wait while the options are displayed.

Choose standard USB storage, read-only USB storage, or CD-ROM. This will determine how the ISO behaves when you reboot your computer. You can then connect the Android device to your PC, and reboot.

As long as your computer’s boot selection screen is configured to default to USB devices, the downloaded operating system will boot from your phone. You can then use this to recover your PC, or even install a brand-new OS.

Two Options to Recover Your PC With Android

If your PC is out of action, you can install a new operating system or run a recovery environment thanks to Android. Two solid options are available:

  • ISO 2 USB: Lets you burn an ISO file directly to a USB flash drive over USB-OTG.
  • DriveDroid: Enables you to store bootable ISO files on Android.

By now you should have either a USB stick with a disk image installed, or an Android device with one or more ISOs ready to boot your PC.

Still having trouble? Try another recovery option. If you end up gaining access to a second PC, follow our guide to backing up your data when your computer won’t boot How to Back Up Data From a Computer That Won’t Boot How to Back Up Data From a Computer That Won’t Boot When your computer won’t boot, your data might still there. Here’s how to install Linux on a bootable USB flash drive to recover your files.

Next time keep a backup though. Read More .

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