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How to keep USB thumb drive malware away from your PC

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Gary Wynn
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In a recent and more rigorous experiment, a group of researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Michigan and Google, dropped nearly 300 USB thumb drives around six campus locations and found that at least 45 percent of them were plugged into a computer and perused by the person who found them.

While modern Windows and Mac systems no longer run programs on a USB stick by default, other attacks, such as BadUSB, can make a USB drive appear to be something else, such as keyboard, and then use that access to take malicious actions.

When the company finds untrusted USB drives, it can test them, said Chris Novak, a director with the firm s RISK team, a computer investigations group.

We often do executive protection, where, when executives go overseas or to a big conference, we give them temporary equipment, and if something happens, we get it back.

Playing the movie trailer on the drive installed malware on the victim s computer, enabling the attacker to steal an unreleased movie.

The fact that users plug such storage devices into corporate computers is a nightmare for IT security professionals, to the degree that they sometimes—and somewhat controversially—block USB ports on highly sensitive computers by gluing them closed with epoxy.

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Gary Wynn
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