It’s safe to say at one point or another, we’ve all used USB drives to transfer and retrieve files from one computer to the next. As convenient as USB drives are for this purpose, it’s also extremely easy for attackers to distribute malware in the same fashion.
Why You Should Be Cautious
According to a study, 25% of malware is spread through the use of USB drives. This usually happens when a malware-infected PC transfers itself onto a USB drive, without the user ever knowing. These “dirty” USB then pass along the infection to new computers they encounter. Attackers commonly spread malware by leaving dirty drives in places where a curious person might be susceptible to plug the infected device into their computer.
Preventing Malware from Dirty Drives
Depending on the operating system of your computer, users can enable or disable Autorun, which allows the malware to automatically run. While for Windows 7 and above, Autorun feature has been removed, AutoPlay is still available. You can learn the differences between Autorun and AutoPlay here.
Protect Your PC with an Antivirus and Firewall
While disabling the Autorun feature on your PC prevents malicious programs from automatically launching, it does not prevent malware from initiating if you open the file infected with malware. It’s important that your computer is equipped with, at the minimum, a two-way firewall and antivirus software, which can stop the malware from executing and damaging your system or stealing your personal information.
Keep Your Operating System Up-to-date
Make sure to run your recommended system updates. Security updates apply necessary patches that repair vulnerabilities in software. You can turn on automatic updates for Windows here.
Be Cautious About What You Plug In
Just as you should exercise caution when deciding to click on links or to download programs, you should be just as vigilant when it comes to plugging in just any USB drives into your computer. Think twice before plugging in that free USB drive or letting a friend retrieve a file on your computer. That little device could be putting your computer and your personal information at risk.