The role of USB sticks in spreading viruses and malware is well documented but a report from Internet security company Kaspersky highlights how even today the lure of using "picked up" sticks remains high.
In 2016, researchers from the University of Illinois left 297 unlabelled USB flash drives around the university campus to see what would happen. Ninety-eight per cent of the dropped drives were picked up by staff and students, and at least half were plugged into a computer in order to view the content.
USB devices have been around for almost 20 years, offering an easy and convenient way to store and transfer digital files between computers that are not directly connected to each other or to the internet. This capability has been exploited by cyberthreat actors, most notably by the Stuxnet worm in 2010, which used USB devices to inject malware into the network of an Iranian nuclear facility.
These days cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive have taken on much of the heavy lifting in terms of file storage and transfer, and there is greater awareness of the security risks associated with USB devices. Their use as an essential business tool is declining. Despite this, millions of USB devices are still produced and distributed annually, with many destined for use in homes, businesses and marketing promotion campaigns like trade show giveaways.
USB devices remain a target for cyberthreats. Kaspersky Lab data for 2017 shows that every 12 months or so, around one in four users worldwide is affected by a ‘local’ cyber incident. These are attacks detected directly on a user’s computer and include infections caused by removable media like USB devices.
The full report can be seen here.
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