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A Flash Drive, an Ex Marine and Russia

It’s not every day we see “flash drive” in the headlines in association with espionage. However, it appears American citizen, Paul Whelan, was arrested in Russia for the charge of espionage.

Gathering information from the news surrounding this situation, Mr. Whelan is an ex-Marine who visits Russia. He is a world traveler, a security expert for a US based auto parts supplier [BorgWarner], speaks Russian and uses a Russian social media platform called VKontakte, or VK.

From reports, the arrest happened like this: Whelan met up with a Russian associate who gave him a flash drive. Earlier in the visit, Whelan claims he received digital images from his vacation through his computer, but could not view them on his computer. Because of this, he asked the photos be placed on a flash drive.

Moments after the two met and exchanged the flash drive, the Russian policy arrested Paul and found state secrets on the USB drive.

plug flash drive into computer

Whelan claims he knew nothing of the information on the flash drive and was only expecting to see pictures of his vacation. I certainly hope

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Chromebook Gets a USBGuard

Anyone in tech has seen the reports and news about USB sticks with a virus ruined a company network or infect computers.  Google built a small and affective feature into their latest Chromebooks.

USBGuard, Chromebook

The USBGuard is a feature which blocks interaction between the mass storage device and the Chrome operating system.  The OS will give power to the device, but not let data transmit.

The USBGuard blocks this activity when the Chromebook is in locked mode.  When the Chromebook is not in lock mode, the USB will interact as expected as a read/write device.

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USB Two Factor Authentication Dongle

Yubico YubiKey 4 appears to be an excellent device for a two-factor authentication solution. Two factor authentication means you need two things before gaining access. In this case, one piece of information is your password and the other piece is your finger print.

If you are using a password manager right now, (ie. Last Pass, Dashlane, etc) I would recommend getting this. The benefit of this device with a password manager is you can enable two factor authentication to add a new device capable of signing into your account.

YubiKey

This means if someone knows your password, it doesn’t really matter because they would also need your finger print. Understand that nearly all password managers conform to some sort of security protocol like FIDO U2F, smart card (PIV), OpenPGP, etc which in turn works with Yubikey.

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How To: Partition a USB Flash Drive in Windows

Using Windows 10, you can partition a USB flash drive into multiple partitions. The process is not difficult, you simply follow some easy steps. This tutorial will partition the drive so that your device is assigned multiple drive letters when connected to the computer.

This partition process is not done at the USB controller level; or said another way, done at the hardware level. This USB partition process, for a lack of better terms, is done at the software level. What does this mean for you? It means the partitions can be wiped off the drive and full capacity of the USB flash drive can be restored.

When a USB stick is partitioned at the controller level, or at the hardware level, there is no way to reverse the partition. The multi-partition drive is permanent. At the end of this tutorial is the solution for a hardware based partition solution.

So let’s get started.

How to partition a USB flash drive in Windows 10:

Connect the USB flash drive to your Windows 10 machine. Be sure there is nothing valuable on the USB as this process will remove all content from the drive.

Right Click the Windows icon and select Disk Management.

The Disk Management window will appear with all the connected devices. Select your USB flash drive by clicking one time. By selecting your flash drive, it will allow Windows to apply the partition to that device.

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What’s the Difference Between USB and UDISK?

With all the gadgets and devices we post about, there’s plenty of merit in veering a little closer to some USB hardware fundamentals and how it communicates with your computer. To highlight this importance, a UDISK Drive and its internal functionality will serve as a comparison.

USB Drive



Simply put, a UDISK is a hard drive in USB form. With magnetic hard drive platters spinning inside an enclosure, UDISKs have a bridge chip regulating the way the drive mounts to an operating system. This chip changes the hard from from IDE protocols, to USB. Standard USB drives don’t use rotating disks to store data, but use flash memory instead, which enjoys faster speeds as well as increased reliability against shock, pressure, and temperature. Why then do these UDISK drives exist? Because those spinning disks are cheaper to manufacture but they can be sold at the same price as standard flash memory USB drives and the difference may not be clear to users.

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