Memory sticks just won't wash

It's no wonder data loss is rife if we keep leaving our USB sticks in with our dirty laundry...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

As many as 9,000 USB memory sticks have been recovered by dry cleaners in the last year alone, according to a study by data security firm Credant Technologies – apparently they’re always finding the devices among people’s dirty washing. USB sticks have made it so much easier and more convenient for people to carry around vast amounts of data – but the problem is, they’re so portable that it’s easy to leave them in your pocket by mistake. And that could be a dangerous business – particularly if you have a particularly clean-living identity thief in your neighbourhood…

Not surprisingly, dry cleaners in or around commuter routes were the most likely to come across these USB sticks – stores either in suburbia, in city centres or in business districts. One particular exponent in the City of London reported that he found about 100 a year, which must be almost enough to start a little sideline. When you think about some of the personal stuff you probably have on your own USB stick – emails, photos, documents and so on – the dangers of it falling into the hands of a stranger are clear. And you never know what kind of miscreant may be lurking in your local dry cleaner’s.

The extent of our absent-mindedness comes as no surprise to Credant, which found in another recent survey that more than 6,000 mobile devices (including laptops, iPods, and phones as well as memory sticks) were discovered in the back of cabs every six months. In fact, given that dry cleaners also claim to have found Rolexes, credit cards, drugs and diamonds in previous laundry bags – although they apparently were sure to return them all to their rightful owners (including the drugs?) – USB sticks are presumably among the least interesting booty they come across.

But perhaps we’re looking at this the wrong way. Tracy Fox, a 42-year-old grandmother-of-two, claims she spent ten months trying to get Currys to get her new washing machine working properly. In fact, she was so irate when an engineer failed to solve the problem during their latest visit that she physically barricaded him into the house and refused to let him leave, potentially leaving herself open to criminal charges (ask Boy George). By comparison, taking your stuff to the nearest dry cleaner or laundrette must be relatively relaxing – and losing a memory stick is a small price to pay for a little peace of mind...

In today's bulletin:

Morrisons dancing in the aisles after cracking Christmas
Autonomy in a class of its own
Hats off to British Gas?
Memory sticks just won't wash
MT's Saunders a winner

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