22,000 USB sticks found by UK dry cleaners each year


ESET study reveals that only 53 percent of devices get returned to owners, which begs the question – what happens to the other 10,004?

A new study from internet security firm ESET has revealed that memory sticks, mobiles phones and dead rats are just some of the items dry cleaners find in dirty clothes each year. The study revealed that 22,266 USB memory sticks and 973 mobiles phones are left in pockets and a staggering 45 percent of the devices never get returned to their owners.

As part of the research, ESET surveyed 500 dry cleaners across the UK in order to establish how many USBs and mobile phones were left in dirty laundry over the last year. On average, each dry cleaner will find four USB sticks left in clothes pockets annually. While many of the devices do end up back in the hands’ of their owner, a shocking 45 percent never get reunited with their owners.

It is a huge concern that so many devices are being completely forgotten about by their owners, particularly in light of the fact that stories about the loss of crucial information is creating news headlines every day. However what is most astounding about the research is the fact that so many devices never actually get returned to their owners. The chances are most of these devices will end up getting thrown in the bin and who knows where they will end up after that.

Other findings from the study were around the strange items that dry cleaners have found in the pockets of clothes over the last year. Some of the more peculiar items included:

  • A dead rat
  • Multiple doses of Viagra
  • Numerous condoms
  • £1600 in cash
  • Dentures
  • Lasagne & chips

While some of these items are important, and also amusing, their frequency was minimal compared to technology items such as phones and USBs.

The number of USB sticks and mobile devices that are left in dry cleaners each year is staggering and clearly highlights the need for people to pay closer attention to protecting their data. In the wake of recent security breaches against high profile organisations it is time for people to start taking their own security more seriously. Data is of high value on the dark net and cybercriminals will always be on the look out for anything they can find. Out of the 10,004 USBs that never got returned, one can assume that a high percentage of them would have contained sensitive corporate data. This therefore creates a potential risk for UK businesses because there is a high chance these devices have ended up in the hands’ of cyber criminals.

by Mark James, ESET UK

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