Protecting Confidential Documents On USB Sticks

Protecting Confidential Documents On USB Sticks
There are so many confidential documents out there, such as board meeting minutes, strategy papers, and research into the competition. Unfortunately, it has become way too difficult to keep them secret. There always seems to be someone sending an email to the wrong recipient or a document leak that ends up on a free torrent site.

Thankfully, there are now DRM solutions that cover most (if not all) security loopholes encountered when trying to protect your electronic documents. However, some people do not seem entirely comfortable with the idea of having to install proprietary software on their devices. If you have this problem, then you can instead opt to use USB sticks. The software will then run from the stick which eliminates the need for installing the proprietary software.

Below we look at some of the features and benefits you get with using a USB stick:

Does Not Require The Users To Identify Themselves

With regular DRM systems, the user must register in order to authenticate themselves with the licensing system. Of course, this sometimes involves giving their IP addresses, names, and other personal information which may make some document recipients uncomfortable. If you instead use a USB stick, the software is preloaded on the stick alongside a key-store. The users may have to download additional documents, but the only identifier they need is to have the USB stick.

You Can Lock USB Stick Usage To A Range Of IP Addresses

As much as corporate entities may want to give employees and other document users freedom, it may sometimes lead to abuse of the privileges. For example, users may take confidential company files home where they are much more exposed to security threats. By locking the USB sticks to a set of IP addresses, you can prevent this from happening. Of course, it would be advisable that you use your corporate IPs. In this way, your employees can only access the files at the office and not when they go home.

Eliminates The Need For Network Connections

Also, one requirement for using a document DRM system is that most users have to connect to the internet at least once to register their devices. Thereafter, some DRM systems may require a constant internet connection to check for expiry dates and whether a particular document is still licensed for the user. The use of a USB stick eliminates these restrictions since it can come with preloaded files, file keys, and the viewer. Unless the users have to download new document versions, they are all set to go once you have handed them the thumb drive.

Additional Documents And Keys May Be Added Online

While it is not necessary for a user to connect to the internet to access the preloaded documents, they might have to connect if they expect updates. The USB stick does not limit the use to the documents it came with. You can post documents online so that anybody with the drives can download them directly onto the USB sticks and if they are authorized to use them then the keys to open those documents will be downloaded and stored securely on the USB.

A USB Stick Can Be Lent or Resold

One premise of using a document DRM system is that the documents cannot be loaned or sold to others because the documents are locked to the users’ personal devices, such as laptops, desktops, and tablets. Giving a document to someone would thus mean giving the whole device to the other party. Yet, some users believe that once they have paid for a document, they should be allowed to use it as they wish, including sharing it with anyone they wish. The use of USB sticks may allow them such liberties. In this way it is similar to a physical book where only one person can use it at a time.

You Can Password Protect USB Sticks

As with any other document transfer method, the transition from the owner to the user poses a few risks. For example, someone might intercept and steal the drive and can then access all the documents stored on the stick. Luckily, you can password protect the drive. In this way, you ensure that only the intended recipients of the flash drive can access its contents.

It Is Possible To Load Both Licensed And Unlicensed Documents

Where documents are in multiples, it might be hard to sort through them all before publishing them onto the USB drive. However, the administrators can load all protected documents, whether licensed or unlicensed, onto the stick. They can then distribute the sticks in this state and after the users received the drives, license each document according to the recipient. This makes the administration of the documents a whole lot easier.


When document users have issues with installing DRM software, using USB sticks instead provides a way out without losing any of the control. Whether you go this route or insist on DRM installation remains a matter of preference and circumstances. Where portability is a crucial factor, USB sticks may be the best way to handle confidential documents. But, compare and contrast this with regular document DRM distribution methods and see which one you prefer.

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AUTHOR_NAMEAbout the Author:
Karishma is a freelance writer. She spends most of the time researching on new technology trends. Currently she works with Locklizard, A software company that specializes in document security and copy protection for pdf, flash, ebooks.
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