[Secure USB Series ③] Types of Copy-protected USB Drives
written by Simon
Copy-protected USB drives are used to prevent copying of data stored in the USB drive, even if it is accessible. It is divided into two categories depending on the purpose of use: content copy protection and business file copy protection.
Content copy-protected USB drives have become a replacement for PC-use CD-ROMs, primarily used for copyright protection of flash books, HTML e-books, videos, music, and especially protection of single content distribution. With the advent of ultra-high-capacity content, CD-ROMs are no longer able to hold such data and are quickly being replaced. As a result, this has contributed to the rapid decline in the price of USB drives.
Most of these products implement a copy protection function by software methods and have encryption, copy/print/screen capture prevention, and limited time use functions. Some brand-exclusive flash drives provide data deletion/format prevention functions.
It is common to support industry-standard file formats, but in recent years, USB drives have started to also support content producers’ proprietary file formats as well. In addition, a producer’s proprietary application can be installed and operated to support read/write functions, as well as be able to redistribute/update through the Internet after distribution.
Some renowned brands include Secudrive, Nexcopy, Kakasoft, and Truscont. These types of products mainly support various text, web document, image, audio, and video formats, such as pdf, txt, HTML, HTML5, JPG, GIF, MP3, WAV, WMV, and MP4. Some products support MS Office, CAD, and their own applications. When selecting a product, you should carefully look at the support file format and consider whether it will serve as a read-only, one-time distribution or a regular/irregular update requiring device.
Business file copy-protected USB drives are used to prevent leakage of confidential information used for businesses, such as Office and CAD files. To prevent information leakage, it has functions to prevent copy/print/network transfer/screen capture. In addition, users can edit data in the USB drive, but all user logs are monitored in real time through the Internet. This function is mainly used to prevent leakage of confidential information by malicious insiders.
With an encrypted USB drive, a user with malicious intent may decrypt the password and convey confidential information to someone outside. However, with a copy-protected USB drive, you can set the anti-copy function in advance so that even when someone enters the password and accesses the data in the flash drive, they cannot copy it to others. In this sense, it is said that encrypted USB drives are for benign users, while copy-protected USB drives are usually used in preparation of malicious insiders.
Some of the above-mentioned content copy-protected USB products support business-related applications, such as MS Office and CAD. Most of these types of products only have read-only features that do not meet the needs to edit data after storage. Conclusively, copy-protected USB drives are generally recognized to be unable to meet security standards for enterprise-level confidential information since it uses software encryption methods. On the other hand, Secudrive USB Office and USB CAD products utilize hardware-encrypted methods to increase security as well as to have functions to manage copy/print/screen capture/network transfer user rights and store user file usage logs.