How To Protect Your USB Device At Cyber Cafes

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 9, 2010
Updated • Dec 6, 2012
Mobile Computing

Entertainment on the go has become a must for travelers. People who listen to music or watch something all the time are so accustomed to doing those things that they almost feel isolated when they are traveling and don't have access to media. Also, the business traveler has many important things to be taken care of, be it online work or offline tasks. They need their work material to be with them, so that they can catch up on it each day they travel.The business man or woman doesn't want to fall behind when they get back to work. Teenagers, on the other hand, like their favorite games and music and movies to be with them all the time so that they can enjoy them whenever they get the chance. The traveler now has got a range of options to choose from regarding how to carry the digital stuff that they want and one of these, and arguably the most popular option to date, is the USB device. These days, the word USB is so widely used, almost everyone on the planet has heard of it and knows what it means.

However, for the uninitiated, here is the lowdown: USB stands for Universal Serial Bus and cutting through all the technical stuff, all you need to know is that it is a type of technology that enables data transfer from one device to another which is equipped with a USB port. The USB port is the place where a USB device is inserted. It is by inserting a USB device that data is transferred. The most popular form of USB device is the USB flash drive, more commonly called simply a flash drive, or a pen drive. Flash drives are generally sold with different storage capacities, such as 1 GB, 2 GB, 4GB, 8 GB etc. For a short trip, data that can be fitted on a 4 GB flash drive should suffice, as it amounts to around 1000 songs, 3 to 4 movies, or a couple of games. For extra storage, one always has the option of external hard disks, but these come in much larger capacities such as 120 GB, 250 GB, etc. and are a bit expensive as well, so a normal flash drive serves the purpose and is more feasible.

Internet Cafe Considerations

While traveling, one cannot be assured of always having a personal computer. Though a few high end hotels provide personal laptops to guests, not everyone can afford to stay at such hotels. If you don't have access to a personal computer, you have no choice but to go to a cyber cafe, or a public internet center where you use a computer for internet for a pre-paid price usually fixed per hour. Browsing at an internet cafe brings a mixture of many things that need to be considered. First, the computers at such centers are shared, and thus you never know which computer has some kind of malicious software installed on it. Malicious software may vary from key logging programs that track your keystrokes and send the information to the planter of the program, to computer viruses that will affect your flash drive causing the loss of data. This is one area where proper caution needs to be exercised or else you can kiss your flash drive, and most important of all, the data that is inside, goodbye.


Most of the time, just taking simple precautions will help preserve your valuable data and protect it from getting lost or being misused. The two most common ways by which data is lost are by the tracking of your activity by malicious programs, and peeping toms behind your back, who are always on the prowl with hopes of getting someone's password, or getting a hint of what you are doing. Most internet centers have computers in a row, and privacy is not ensured to a great extent. Though the incidents of people actually peeping at your screen are a rare happening, it does happen, and it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Also, as the computer is used by some random person after you, it is always better to keep the following in mind while using a computer at a public internet center. First, always log out of anything that the machine is logged in. This does not mean just clicking on the "log out" button and leaving. You must double check that you have logged out successfully. This simple yet very important step will help a lot to protect you. Also, many browsers offer an option to save the username and password data, be sure to uncheck all such options before logging in, as you do not want any other person to be able to access your information. Second, never leave your computer unsupervised for even a single minute.

If you have to leave, be sure to log out of everything and close all browser windows. Your leaving the computer unsupervised may result in strangers accessing your private documents and files, which you don't want to happen. The third thing to remember is to clear all history and temporary files and downloaded files when you are through and before you leave. These can be removed by just checking out options of most browsers. The fourth thing to do is to make sure that online financial transactions are avoided at public computers. Because you will have to enter highly confidential data such as credit card number, it is not recommended to use a public computer for these activities. By following these simple precautions you will help ensure you have a safe browsing experience.

Protecting The Flash Drive

Now moving on to how to protect your flash drive, it mostly involves a basic step: password-protect your USB flash drive. Most people while traveling tend to insert their flash drives into every computer they use, thus increasing the chance of their flash drive getting infected by a high degree. The infection can be due to a virus or malicious software installed by a person wishing to access your private files. Also, if your flash drive gets stolen or lost, protecting it with a password will prevent others from getting access to your files easily. Protecting your flash drive with a password is a simple task. There are many free software programs over the internet that give you detailed instructions on how to protect your USB flash drive. These can be found by doing a simple search on any search engine. This easy step is a must in today's highly dangerous online world and one cannot risk losing even a bit of one's personal and sensitive data. Do it now. Password-protect your USB drives, use the above precautions, and have a happy and safe travel knowing that you are keeping your data secure.


Tutorials & Tips

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  1. jasray said on July 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm
  2. dipok pal said on July 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I have a pen drive which I used to carry some files from my laptop to other public computers, these public computers are virus infected. Now I want to make my pen drive write protected so that these viruses can’t infect my pen drive.
    What are solutions ?

  3. Dexter said on November 9, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    just create new folder and name it
    then enter that folder and create empty file and name it
    then set this file to read only

    that way, even if some malware will install on it, it will not be automatically run from your usb drive

  4. Dermot said on November 9, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Another suggestion would be to use a dummy file generator to create a file that takes up all remaining space on your USB stick so that a virus, etc, cannot write itself to your drive. Has some obvious limitations in that neither can you write/save any new files, but very effective if you use your drive for portable apps or reading saved files.

  5. Andy Buford said on November 9, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I have a simple suggestion for protecting files you wish to access while on the road. Most sd cards (the kind used for digital cameras) have a write protect function. My suggestion is to get an sd card to usb adapter. When you are on a non-trusted system, write protect the card. This is also useful for running portable anti-virus scanners or other utilities on a possibly infected system.

  6. Traveling Technologist said on November 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Password protection is great… until I punch in my password and the stick gets infected anyway. How about some kind of read-only protection? Or links to any of this amazing cure-all security software? Completely useless article.

    1. Lars T. said on November 10, 2010 at 12:19 am

      Well, I wouldn’t say the article is completely useless. But your comment is useless indeed.

    2. jasray said on November 9, 2010 at 8:13 pm

      “All is opinion.” One may feel the article is useless. Opinion. Others may say they only use Thinstalled apps on a USB (me). Others may simply avoid the USB issue and take a virtualized Linux distro (me). Hardly useless unless one fails to provide a better solution to the problem.

  7. neon said on November 9, 2010 at 12:15 pm

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