April 20, 2020 |

USB Safety

USB SafetyUSB2

The USB (full name universal serial bus) otherwise known as a flash drive, data-stick or thumb drive is a portable device used for saving files. What would you do if you found a USB lying around on a desk, left behind at an Internet café or lying on the ground? If you are like most people then chances are you would probably be curious and plug it into your PC or laptop (particularly if it had a tantalising label like “confidential” or marked as being a high capacity storage item).

While a lone USB may well have been accidentally left behind by someone, there is a very real possibility it was deliberately planted by a hacker who is banking on human curiosity to help them infect your device. Sadly, these enticements are also aimed at children, when USBs decorated with say a unicorn or in the shape of a robot or a popular cartoon character are left lying around to deliberately entice a younger demographic who may not immediately think about safety before picking up the “free” USB.

While this does sound sinister, it is an easy way for hackers to access your computer – and with your help!  There are two ways the USB can achieve this, the first is by placing infected files on the USB so when you click the file it puts a virus on your computer (yes you could run a virus scan on the drive before you open it, but even then that isn’t something I would recommend – the best thing would be not to plug it in at all).

The second way is for the hacker to actually program the USB software, making it more efficient and dangerous. When this is done the USB device will automatically upload malware onto any device it’s plugged into, even before you open it, so the moment you plug the device in you are unfortunately at risk. Without wishing to scare people, an infected USB can do lots of damage aside from downloading a virus, including actions such as:

  • Taking over your keyboard and entering predetermined keystrokes, forcing your PC to perform actions you did not select
  • Logging your keystrokes and sending the data to remote servers (that is how they can copy your passwords for banking, etc)
  • Taking over your webcam and recording you
  • Changing or manipulating your files
  • Permanently destroying your device.

So, as you can see, a free USB device is definitely not worth the trouble!!

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