Do there exist physical security devices for USB sticks that serve a function analogous to laptop locks (i.e. preventing smash-and-grab type attacks)?

If so, what are they and to what extent do they offer protection?

Example scenario: I plug a $250 USB SSD key into my laptop and work in a coffee shop. The attacker yanks out the key on their way out the door and starts running. Even if my data is encrypted, I'm out $250 + any data since my last backup.

  • This is no problem to do; it is ordinarily called a LiveCD, and can be moved over to USB cards. You boot to the device and all data stays on the device. If you know about this, is there anything particular in addition to this you want to achieve? – Henning Klevjer Dec 14 '12 at 19:47
  • @HenningKlevjer I'm looking for physical security solutions. That is, I want to stop someone from grabbing an in-use USB key and running off. I'm not worried about data theft because I can use e.g. truecrypt on the drive to avoid that, but often the hardware that I'm working with is itself expensive or difficult to replace. – John Doucette Dec 14 '12 at 19:50
  • "...a $250 USB SSD key..." What are you using, an IronKey? – Iszi Dec 14 '12 at 19:55
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    @JohnDoucette Oh, I see, a locked-in-place USB stick. Cool idea. However, if someone steals your computer, your locked-in USB stick AND the computer would disappear on theft? – Henning Klevjer Dec 14 '12 at 20:01
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    @HenningKlevjer The solution to that being a lock on the laptop as well. Not that those are hard to circumvent, but at least it will prevent a quick grab-and-go theft. – Iszi Dec 14 '12 at 20:02

The problem with most USB thumb drives is that they stick out a whole lot, but you can buy smaller USB drives that will fit snug against your laptop. The problem is that obviously they will be much smaller capacity, but you'll get that security.

Something like this:


Additionally, since most laptops have this feature anyway, you could use a SD card, since that will fit right into your laptop, not exposing itself at all. A potential thief/attacker would have no idea it's even there unless they nabbed your laptop.

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  • Thanks fro the answer! A good thought for future purchases, though I'd still to be able to keep tabs on the larger ones. – John Doucette Dec 14 '12 at 20:14
  • Not a bad idea, but I don't see any actual security benefit - mostly "security through obscurity" if anything. Sure, it might be a little harder to notice, and it may just be a little trickier to remove (though not by much) than a full-size drive, but there's nothing inherent to the design of this product that actually prevents theft on its own. – Iszi Dec 14 '12 at 20:18
  • If it has any sort of lanyard attachment on it, you could always fashion it to your laptop via a vent slot or something like that with a higher tension string of some sort. edit: To the guy above, it would be much harder to take that out of a laptop from a driveby thief. Trying to scramble to get that out of a laptop quickly would be difficult to someone who is probably pumped up with adrenaline. – g3k Dec 14 '12 at 20:19

Depends how permanent you are looking for. Crazy Glu works wonders, but kind of kills the removable nature of it. As far as a physical thing goes, about the best you could hope for would be looping it through a lock cable. There isn't really a good way to clamp it to a computer directly. Maybe you could use the laptop lock connector and tie it to the USB stick.

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  • Yeah, I was thinking about getting a retractable cable lock for this. Perhaps that's my best bet. – John Doucette Dec 14 '12 at 21:51
  • @JohnDoucette - yeah, if there is anything else that would work, it would be highly specialized (like a special USB drive that included that kind of a function). There isn't really anything else universal to lock on to on every model of laptop. – AJ Henderson Dec 14 '12 at 21:52

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