Almost everybody uses thumb drives to store and to transfer data because this device is very compact and very easy in use. However, almost everybody at least once got the virus on the thumb drive looked for the way to clean the infection. The ability to move data between multiple systems make thumb drives a perfect target for attackers because most of the job is done by the device owners. The problem with viruses on the thumb drives is so common that some businesses ban the use of this storage media by the employees. The use of these devices hard to manage, and the use of special software that detects the moment when the USB drive is plugged in doesn’t help much because detection doesn’t prevent smart Trojans and viruses from getting in and hiding somewhere in the system.
Once the virus get to the system it might spread over the corporate network or by the same means of thumb drives’ data transfer. Malicious program are designed to steal personal information, and sensitive documents. They allow remote access to infected systems or to the whole network. A general problem is that the attackers are always one step ahead of the antivirus developers, and the infection spread with a thumb drive might do a lot of harm before the virus or Trojan will be detected removed from the system.
In the worst case, there are some specially designed removal utilities for specific type of threats that might do the work better than the more generic antivirus program and might help when the antivirus fails to remove the virus on the thumb drive or when it do not the one expected.
If the use of thumb devices is not prohibited by the employer, there are some special set of rules that everybody should follow to be on the safe side.
Check your thumb drive for infection with antivirus before opening or copying data to your PC.
This is a simple precaution that everyone can take. Just remember to keep your antivirus software constantly updated, because virus makers are constantly looking for new ways of invasion and trespassing through the system defense.
Disable the autorun feature and open the drive with Windows File Explorer
Malicious programs use the autorun.ini file on the thumb drive to start their programs’ installers. This file is used by the system to start removable media automatically, and it is an exactly the feature that you need to disable from virus exploits.
If you disable autorun, viruses just can’t use this common means of their invasion. The same issue applies to the USB drive infections. Disabled autorun.inf can protect your flash drive from the infection as well. There is special software from protection thumb drives, like Panda USB Vaccine, that disables autorun.inf on a flash drive. As an option, you can delete the autorun.inf from your thumb drive manually and replace it with the autorun.inf folder with “hidden” and “system” attributes set on. Then, this folder cannot be replaced by the malicious version of autorun.inf that issue commands to starts copying virus on the thumb drive.
Use passwords and encryption on your USB drive to protect your data
There is no total guarantee; however, even the use of password might protect your data, and the encryption makes it a lot harder for possible invaders to disclose the information that you keep encrypted.
Keep the private and business data on separate drives.
Try do not plug your thumb drive for business in your personal computer, because the level of protection might be different, and the spying software might steal your business data through your computer over the internet. Also do not plug your personal thumb drive with a sensitive personal data to your work computer, because it might be under the watch.
Make a backup often to protect your data from loss.
Some viruses are very severe, and they cannot be removed by the antivirus programs that remove infected files instead. On the other hand, there are viruses that might destroy your flash memory, and it might be very uneasy to restore the lost data if possible at all.
Use a separate drive for public places
Do not use the device that you use on everyday basis or with important files at public places such as printing shops because they can easily transfer the whole bunch of different infections to your drive, and the files that got infected might be deleted by your antivirus program. The worst thing is that here you got the fresh new virus on the thumb drive that your antivirus program can’t detect.
Run your work sessions in a “sand box”
There is another technology known as virtual system or a “sand box” that also protects you system from changes by malicious programs. The virtual machine run the session with the system image that is separated from the system, and if the virtual machine becomes infected, it can be easily restored from the snapshot for some previous date effectively removing viruses and all the changes they made.
Remember that not only the storage USB device might be infected. Any other USB device might be infected as well. So, try to avoid using devices like USB lights, toys or vents. And finally, if you got a virus on the thumb drive, use the antivirus to remove infection and if it can’t remove the virus from infected file, then try to use some specially designed removal utility program.