Securing USB memory devices

With the release of Windows XP SP2, you can now secure those USB Flash Memory devices.

With the release of Windows XP SP2, you can now secure those USB Flash Memory devices.

When the USB devices first hit the scene, there were a lot of people (primarily those in the security field) who were ready to cast voodoo spells on the devices. Why?

The Flash Memory devices were another chink in the security armor. Users could insert the devices into their USB port, and take company data with them or inadvertently upload viruses they brought from home. Even though the devices have become popular over the last year or so (I simply can't live without one), there still wasn't a way of making sure they were not a security risk.

Windows XP SP2 enables users to make these devices Read-only by adding a specific registry value. Under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\
Control\StorageDevicePolicies, there's now a value called WriteProtect.

If the data value is set to 0 (zero), write-protect is disabled. If the data value is set to 1 (one), then write-protect is enabled, effectively making the USB Flash Memory device Read Only.

So, to make it simple:

Key Path:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies

Value Name (DWORD): WriteProtect

Data Value: 0 = disable, 1 = enable

You can script this with your favorite script editor and use your favorite distribution tool to send it to everyone in the company. Of course, I would recommend SMS 2003, but GPO or a Login Script would do it, too.

MORE INFO:
Security RFCs

Restoring Default Security Settings in Windows XP

Key Security Review Components

Security FAQ: Vulnerability Types

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rod Trent, manager of myITforum.com and Microsoft MVP is a leading expert on Microsoft Systems Management Server. He has more than 18 years of IT experience -- eight of which have been dedicated to SMS. He is the author of such books as Microsoft SMS Installer, Admin911:SMS, and IIS 5.0: A Beginner's Guide, and has written literally thousands of articles on technology topics.


This article first appeared in myITforum, the premier online destination for IT professionals responsible for managing their corporations' Microsoft Windows systems. The centerpiece of myITforum.com is a collection of member forums where IT professionals actively exchange technical tips, share their expertise, and download utilities that help them better manage their Windows environments, specifically Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS). It is part of the TechTarget network of Web sites. To register for the site and sign up for the myITforum daily newsletter, click here.

This was first published in October 2004

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