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How to protect yourself against malicious removable media

A man holding a USB drive, a piece of removable media.


Be careful when dealing with removable media from unknown sources

What looks like a harmless piece of removable media can actually be a front to infect your computer with malware.

It’s easy to think that making mistakes on the internet is the only way your cybersecurity can become compromised. Unfortunately, that isn’t so.

Portable hardware is typically used to store data. These devices can include flash drives, external hard drives, and even memory cards, and each can contain viruses or other forms of malware. Of course, you can’t tell by looking at the thing that it’s dangerous, and plugging such devices into your computer or phone could activate the malware, which then causes your device to malfunction.

If you spot a “lost” removable data storage medium, whatever you do, do not plug it into your device. It might legitimately be someone’s lost property … on the other hand, some cybercriminal might have intentionally dropped it in plain sight in hopes of taking advantage of your good intentions.

Even if your intentions are pure and you want to figure out who the owner of the removable storage is and return it to them, plugging it into your computer or phone to figure it out can be all it takes to cause catastrophic damage.

In the video below, Adobe, the National Cyber Security Alliance, and Speechless Inc. demonstrate the possible danger of plugging a removable medium from an unknown source into your device.

Here are some best practices to follow when dealing with these removable media:

  • Don’t insert any external storage media into your device if you don’t know and implicitly trust its source.
  • Make sure your computer always has antivirus and antimalware installed, up to date, and activated.
  • Disable auto-run features on your devices; they can allow harmful programs in the storage media to engage automatically.

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