USB devices have been a real god send for a lot of people. Sure, you can transfer and store your data over the internet but a lot of times you need something that is going to be able to store a large amount of data very quickly. There is no time to be able to transfer the data over the internet lines to get to your server or remote host. Other times you have no access to the internet and you need to be able to store the data quickly. That is where USB storage devices come in.
With USB storage devices you are able to store and transport a large amount of data very cheaply. You can go to many stores right now and get an 8 GB USB storage device for less than $20. A few years ago that would have been unthinkable. But now it is possible and done all of the time. But there is a dark side to the USB devices that is not talked about a lot. That is what I am going to do in this article. I will discuss the dark side of these devices and I will also talk about how you can defend not only your home computer but also your work network from one of these devices that has been corrupted.
The dangers that come from a USB device
When we talk about USB devices what we are mostly talking about are the USB thumb drives that you see in stores all of the time. Just seeing the words USB device you can think that we were talking about a number of items such as an external hard drive. But beware, even though I am mostly talking about USB thumb drives, some of the vulnerabilities that I will be discussing can happen on much bigger devices as well.
So what are some of the dangers of a USB thumb drive? For one, they are very easily used to transport corrupted files back and forth to different computers. You may have a virus on one of your computers and it might end up on your thumb drive. Now you can easily take that same virus and transfer it to another computer by just plugging the thumb drive into it. But that is not the only danger that they pose.
Some hackers have figured out how to install more than just regular viruses on the devices. They have figured out how to put software on there that will take over your computer without you even clicking on the corrupted software. All it has to do is be aware that you have connected to the computer and it will activate. Some of the cheaper USB thumb drives have corrupted firmware files. That means that a virus has been planted inside of the device at the factory and it is something that you can never take out. You would have to throw the device away since it is firmware. These are just a few of the many ways that a USB device can be used to infect your computer. While most of the uses of these devices are perfectly acceptable, you must be aware that they can pose dangers as well. There are a lot of people who will just plug any strange USB device into their computer and then click on files. There needs to be some precautions taken before you do that and that is what I am going to talk about in the next paragraph.
If you want to make sure that your office network or your home computer is not taken over by an infection in a USB device then here are a few things that you can do.
First, if you are talking about being at work then you should have a policy of no outside USB devices. These devices are not very reliable as far as security goes and it just makes everything a little bit easier. Second if you are going to allow the devices then make sure that they are scanned by antivirus software. This should be done on your home computer as well. Make sure that the antivirus program is updated. Now, if you do allow these types of devices at work then you should have a Intrusion Detection System (IDS) system set up. It will be able to scan your network and see if there are any penetration attempts. This along with a commercial firewall should be able to stop the infection from causing damage if there is one. The virus might infect the system but it will not be able to send its message out.
So as you can see, a USB device can be dangerous but there are ways that you can mitigate the danger. As with other aspects of life, be careful where you stick it in!