By Ionut Ilascu
Getting your computer all secured will never be an easy task. Even if you protect it from online threats there is always the physical attack to worry about and each physical port (especially USB) on your computer is a door to introducing malware.
There are times when USB ports of your computer are disrespected and different people stick all sorts of portable devices into your machine, many times without your permission. This is a good way to collect all sort of malware and spend a lot of time for tracing the source. Fortunately you can limit the use of USB ports only to the devices you consider clean.
A usb device control software is specially designed for protecting your USB ports and limiting the access of alien devices on your computer safeguarding your system from this kind of intrusion. It'll give you total control over USB ports allowing only portable devices you choose to connect.
Installing it is a matter of seconds and save the defining of the installation folder, there is absolutely no other setting available. The application comes with a very easy to use, straightforward interface which gets directly to the point the moment it is launched. The three menus available are all you need for properly configuring the application, applying the restrictions to all unknown USB or setting up the notification system.
Devices tab is where you get to set the trusted USB devices which are allowed access on your computer. All USB connecting gimmicks available will be listed in this window and you get to set the trusted ones by simply checking the box next to them and pressing the Apply changes button in the lower right hand part of the screen. All trusted items will have green light in status while all others will be greyed out.
The software will read specific information for each element in the list, thus you can't confuse them. Details like PID, serial number and type of the device. For each item in the list you can add a brief description in order to personalize it (access it from the right click context menu).
From this moment on all USB devices that were not on Trusted list will not be allowed access. And the great thing is that each time there is an attempt to connect a USB device to your computer the activity will be logged. The log file can be saved on a user defined location on the computer and you can also set a limit to it either in size or in the maximum number of days to be monitored.
Reporting tab provides the necessary information about the time an USB device has been plugged into your computer, its serial number or the user logged into the system. A very interesting option is showing the files that have been accessed by trusted devices. This way you will be able to learn if someone uses your flash drive from time to time and if that's true you will know where on the drive the intruder has been peeking.
Setting up the application is piece of cake and the options are quite something as you are given the possibility of configuring it to notify you via email whenever one of your computer's USB endpoint is tried. The application will only alert you of untrusted USB connecting devices that are plugged into your machine and for this you have to make the necessary configuration (provide email account setting as well as mail server access). In order to check that the mail notification service works you can send a test email and see if it arrives in the desired mailbox.
There will be an email for each connection attempt and you will benefit from information like the name of the device, manufacturer, its serial number and the time and date of the connection.
It functions as a service on your computer which starts up automatically with Windows. Although stopping its activity is not too much of a deal, the application itself offers this choice internally under General Settings tab. The way the service starts up can be changed from automatic to manual or disabled directly from the application.
However, during our testing on both Vista and XP we found that disabling the service will screw up the driver in the operating system and render the USB flash unusable. Fixing the problem involves uninstalling the USB device's driver from Device Manager and reinstalling it with the plugging in of the device into your computer.
For the security of the settings and for preventing the way it protects the USB endpoints, it is equipped with password protection feature. This way it will make an intruder's life more difficult when trying to override application's protection. But, for a computer connoisseur this would not be at all discouraging and disabling the service of the application overrides all protection settings (mind the above mentioned little driver nag).
All in all the application does a pretty good job but only as long as you do not mess with its service. Otherwise you will be faced to a bunch of problems whose solving require uninstalling the USB device drivers from Device Manager or even the elimination of the application altogether.
It proves to be a very good USB endpoint protector allowing only trusted devices to work on the computer and preventing the connection of untrusted ones. It is easy to install and setting it up for takes under a minute.
The application can be password protected and the user can receive email notifications about USB intrusions on the computer. A log records the time and date of every USB plugin and you will also benefit from the locations on the flash drive that have been accessed.