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USB Key Dangers

USB drives, otherwise known as flash drives or memory sticks, are a popular way for hackers to transmit viruses and malicious code. USB drives are popular for storing and transporting files from one computer to another. They’re small, readily available, extremely portable, inexpensive so literally everywhere! This makes them appealing to attackers.

How do hackers use USB drives?

  • To infect other computers – an attacker might infect a computer with malware that can detect when a USB drive is plugged into a computer. When a USB is plugged in the malware is downloaded onto the USB drive. When that USB drive is plugged into another computer, the malware infects that computer.  Some attackers infect items USB drives during production. When users plug the infected products into their computers the malware installs on their computers.
  • To steal information directly from a computer – if an attacker can physically access a computer they can download sensitive information directly onto a USB drive.
  • To steal data – USB drives can be easily lost or stolen. If the information on the drive is not encrypted, anyone who has the USB drive can access all of the data on it.

USB security precautions

Take the following steps to protect the data on your USB drive and on any computer that you might plug the drive into:

  • Use passwords and encryption – protect your data with passwords and if it is sensitive information encrypt it before loading it on to your USB drive.
  • Keep home and office USB drives separate – do not use the same USB drives for home and work.
  • Use security software, and keep all software up to date – use security software protection on your computer and make sure you keep all software up to date.
  • Never plug an unknown USB drive into your computer – do not plug it into your computer to view the contents or to try to identify the owner.
  • Disable autorun – this will stop USB drives automatically opening when they are inserted into your computer drive.