Pen drive malware is a much more common problem than we imagine. This is how you can prevent it.
Almost everyone is aware of the risk of finding malware in an email attachment whose sender we do not know, or of the possibilities of downloading malware or adware by downloading the first program we found by searching Google.
However, what not everyone knows is that a flash drive is also a potential channel for malware transmission quite exploited.
Pen drive malware: an unknown danger for most
In reality, e-mail, for example, is a channel less and less exploited by those who want to spread a virus, since people are very aware of the risk and fewer and fewer people fall for these tricks. So everyone who wants to spread malware look for channels where people don’t expect to find it.
USB sticks are precisely that medium in which people do not expect to find malware and therefore use them, wrongly, without prudence. And it is not that we say it, it is that in an experiment from the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan and Google scattered 300 different USB sticks in different urban areas and 45% of them were collected by people who, when they got home, connected them to your computer. That is people connect unknown USB without any fear.
What is the risk?
The main problem with connecting an unknown memory unit is that there may be an installed program that introduces malware onto your computer. It is true that modern versions of any desktop operating system no longer run a program installed on a USB flash drive by default when connected, but an older system is always vulnerable.
In addition, software like BadUSB makes the computer believe that the storage unit is a keyboard, and as such it controls the computer to download the malware. And against these types of attacks, no system has a solution, at least for the moment.
How can I keep my computer safe?
Preventing malware from reaching your computer through a flash drive is as easy as do not connect unknown units. Do not accept free flash drives because you do not know what they can carry inside: some companies give away flash drives to place their own advertising on your computer.
Of course, never take a flash drive that you find on the ground and connect it to your computer and, if possible, don’t use other people’s drives, even if you trust them, since they could have malware themselves without knowing it. As Chris Novak of Verizon’s security department says, the best we can do is use USB sticks as toothbrushes: have one for you and for no one but yourself.
If you want extra security, you can buy a USB with encryption that protects the data and also prevents attacks through firmware such as BadUSB.
In any case, always remember that the most important thing is do not share USB sticks and buy yours yours. If you follow that rule and are a little careful about what you put into your unit, the risk drops to almost zero.