Clean Clothes A Data Loss Risk As 22,000 USB Sticks Lost At Dry Cleaners In 2015

More than 22,000 USB sticks and mobile phones forgotten as security precautions get taken to the cleaners

Corporate IT security precautions may soon have to extend to the some of the more unusual shops on the high street after researchers found that dry cleaning shops were a haven for forgotten devices.

A study by security firm ESET found that over 22,000 USB sticks were left in the pockets of clothing sent to Britain’s dry cleaners during 2015, with each dry cleaner finding four USB sticks each on average alongside other valuable items such as mobile phones.

And whilst many of these USB sticks are reunited with their original owners, nearly half (45 percent) do not, meaning that last year over 10,000 sticks went missing for good.

High and dry

usb leakThe study, which saw ESET survey 500 of the UK’s dry cleaners, also found that 973 mobile phones were left in dirty laundry last year, and in one case, £1600 in cash.

“It is a huge concern that so many devices are being completely forgotten about by their owners, particularly in light of the fact that stories about the loss of crucial information is creating news headlines every day,” said Mark James, security specialist at ESET.

“In the wake of recent security breaches against high profile organisations it is time for people to start taking their own security more seriously. Data is of high value on the dark net and cybercriminals will always be on the lookout for anything they can find.”

“Out of the 10,004 USBs that never got returned, one can assume that a high percentage of them would have contained sensitive corporate data. This therefore creates a potential risk for UK businesses because there is a high chance these devices have ended up in the hands of cyber criminals.”

Even if the USB devices are locked, many are still able to be hacked by criminals able to access the firmware.

Back in August 2014, security researchers warned that the firmware that controls the basic communication functions of USB devices can be reverse engineered to host malware.

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