Since their creation, USB drives have been a familiar friend for every user who wishes to transfer files and folders to/from computers and laptops. This tiny equipment has eased up the process of sharing content, and they have been around for quite a while now. They have established a reputation of being convenient, easy to use, and quick to transfer.
Many use USB drives regularly to share movies with friends or carry a presentation file to college/office. But, what they don’t consider is the risk of their equipment being infectious. Yes, USB drives can get infected by malware and viruses if the users aren’t careful enough.
Although these days, online cloud services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, etc., have taken over the online users for facilities like transfer and storage of files, USB drives are still used frequently. And, they haven’t got any safer than they used to be. Reports of users complaining about their drive infections are still in the light from time to time.
There are many ways a USB drive can be infected, and the same way is how you may infect other devices as well. This could occur without any signs unless you are incredibly cautious about inserting unknown drives into your computer. Those who use it without securing their devices or the drive itself will likely encounter a virus-infected drive. Let’s discuss more how your drives may get contaminated and the ways to protect them.
What are the risks of unsecured USB drives?
Unsecured USB drives can root a considerable challenge for users who want to protect their sensitive information. Even though the risks and ways of securing their drives are widely taught and shared among computer users, cybercrimes led by a malware infection on drives still take place constantly.
Why so? Users are still continuously plugging USB drives into computers that are unshielded and infectious. Despite the variety of security measures available, there will always be some devices left unprotected from online and external threats, which makes any drive connected to them vulnerable to attacks and infection.
Computers that aren’t facilitated by disallowing autorun or scanning the USB drives can act as the primary source of virus infection. This means that other networks and devices will also be exposed to different risks because of such purposes when connected to them. Following are some of the dangers that an infected USB drive might carry:
- Loss of essential data
- Exchange of malware and viruses
- Prone to cyberattacks
- Computer OS lag
- Infection of system files
A USB drive can get infected both intentionally and otherwise. If someone with ill-purpose gets a hold of your USB drive, they will upload malware and viruses into it to infect your devices and associated users of the drive. Sometimes, viruses can also be uploaded to the drives accidentally.
For example, suppose you connect your USB drive to your friend’s computer for sharing files. In case the computer your drive is plugged in has infectious folders, your USB could get infected as well. Unfortunately, their infection is not as complicated as infection of your computer.
Let’s take emails, for example. If a hacker sends you an email, you have to open it and click on the attached links to get infected by the virus. In the case of a USB drive, you need to plug it into a computer, and either your drive or the computer will be infected, both instances being risky.
Another scenario is that you have downloaded pirated software or movies on your drive. In most cases, such files contain malware which is sure to affect your USB drive. In both cases, accidentally or not, an infected flash drive will contaminate all the devices it gets connected with.
How do you protect your USB flash drive from viruses?
Now that you have understood the risks and causes of a USB drive infection, below is a list of 7 ways you can protect it from viruses:
- Be careful of your online activities: Most of the time, viruses infect a USB drive accidentally when the user visits unsecure sites, downloads malicious software, clicks on infectious emails and links, etc. Users who do this have a higher chance of infecting their drive, so be careful what you do online.
- Perform a regular computer scan: The USB drive will also suffer if your computer is infected already. Once you plug your drive into a contaminated device, usually the malware automatically gets installed. To prevent this, invest in a robust security measure and regularly scan your PC for viruses.
- Never plug unknown drives into your computer: Attackers use people’s curiosity to trick them. They may throw away infectious USB drives around so that someone might pick them up. Then, they wait for the drives to get plugged in and wreak havoc on the user’s device. So, ignore any flash drives you see in the public.
- Frequently update your PC and drive: A computer with an outdated OS and Security System has a greater risk of being attacked by viruses. You should immediately update this software whenever you’re notified of the update availability. Also, updating the USB drive ports may help improve the security as well.
- Format your USB drive: If your USB drive has already been infected with a virus, you may want to wipe it out by drive formatting. Doing that will remove all the files present in the drive, including malware and viruses. This method is not recommended if you have essential data stored in your flash drive.
- Scan your flash drive before plugging in: Before exchanging files between your USB drive and computer, you should always scan your drive for viruses to identify and eliminate them. This will prevent further infection of your PC as well as safeguard your USB drive.
- Use a robust antivirus to secure your USB drive: Your security software is the most critical element in detecting and removing a virus.
If you invest in a powerful antivirus program, such as Norton 360, which is one of the Best Antivirus for PC, your computer will be secured as well as your USB drive when connected to it.