August 2014: Sharing USB Drives and Protecting Data | Kent State University

August 2014: Sharing USB Drives and Protecting Data

All USB devices share a common and potentially harmful flaw. Hackers know that computers are typically set up to listen for what type of USB device is plugged in. This means that criminals can reprogram USB devices to pretend to be something other than what it really is. That device can then be used to spy on you, capture passwords, or do permanent damage to your system. This activity goes undetected by antivirus programs since it is not a running program but actual hardware.

This potential risk is called USB duping and the only complete safeguard against potential infection is to disable USB ports altogether. This practice has already been implemented by the U.S. military in sensitive areas, along with banning all USB drives. Awareness is the most important factor in thwarting an attack of this type, so remember to be wary of strangers asking to charge a cell phone or borrow a USB drive.

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