By this point you should be fairly well aware of the threats facing you when browsing the Internet on your digital devices. From phishing scams in your inbox to malicious banner links, surfing the Web can bring danger if you’re not already protecting yourself with a reliable antivirus. But what about the threats you face offline? It’s important to remember that your computers are not just vulnerable to cyberattacks; it’s now becoming more and more common for attackers to find new ways to infiltrate your devices, like through your removable media.
In fact, about 30% of malware infections are spread via removable media like USB sticks and SD cards.
Most of us use these devices fairly frequently as well, whether for sharing documents amongst coworkers or passing along photos from our latest trip to our friends and family members. They may seem harmless enough, but if they fall into the wrong hands they could be used for highly destructive purposes.
In 2012 two US power plants were infiltrated when an employee inadvertently brought an infected USB stick onto the premises. And although this case is extreme, it’s proof that a small device can cause a large amount of damage.
This type of attack can be carried out in a couple of different ways. An attacker might infect a computer with malware that can determine when a USB drive is plugged in, with the hopes that the infected drive will then be plugged into another computer, spreading the virus. They can also be used to steal information directly from computers, which could be detrimental to anyone who has confidential information stored on their systems. What’s more is, given their compact size it’s incredibly easy for these devices to be lost or stolen and used for harm.
Luckily, we’ve compiled some helpful tips to help keep your USB sticks clean and your computers safe.
Configure your OS to avoid running anything from USBs. If an attacker was to leave infected USB cards in your office and you were to pick one up and plug it into your computer, you would want to be sure you had already set up your antivirus software to prevent the opening and running of any infected files. If you’re using Kaspersky Pure, you can set up an auto-scan of your USB stick easily within your settings. Just go into General Scan Settings and select either do not scan or prompt for action, which will allow you to do a quick scan, full scan, or no scan whenever a removable device is detected.
Patch your OS: Whenever your OS offers you a patch update, you should be downloading it. Patches are released to improve upon imperfections and vulnerabilities within your software, and neglecting to keep up with the latest versions could make you susceptible to viruses. In the case of USB malware, you’ll want to make sure your OS is patched against AutoRun exploits so your system is not automatically running anything from your removable devices.
Don’t copy executable files: Executable files can cause your computer to perform tasks that have been assigned by encoded instructions. You can imagine the danger of copying this type of file from an unknown source, so it’s best to avoid doing so altogether. We recommend downloading all software directly from official, trusted sites only.
Keep your drives separate: On top of making sure you’re only using USB drives given to you by trusted sources, you should also make sure you aren’t using them to mix business with pleasure. It’s safest to keep your work and personal information separate from one another, especially if your USB sticks are being used by multiple people in your home or office.
Exercising caution is best when it comes to protecting yourself. If you follow our advice and use a trusted antivirus, you should be fine to use your removable devices.