December 7, 2007

USB Devices, Viruses and Your Data

The advent of the USB interface meant that data could be transferred faster, cheaper, and more reliably across electronic devices. It fostered portability and brought new meaning to connectivity when digital cameras, desk lamps, keyboards, and audio players began arriving with USB capabilities. And because of the simplicity and ease of use involved, flash drives and mp3 players have become widely popular. For some, they’ve become a fashion statement; for others, a way of life.

Unless you live in a remote location in the rainforest, you probably own a USB device. Like you, I've made them a vital part of my everyday life. But here’s something you don't want to hear. That little gadget you carry around your neck so cheerfully is like a C-4 explosive ready to be detonated.

Just so you know, USB devices are prone to contracting harmful, infectious files (viruses, trojan horses, worms etc.). From what I’ve seen, it’s been the leading cause of the numerous cases of computer malfunction occurring in recent weeks. Within the last month, I've had to wipe out and tediously reinstall four machines, one for the second time in three weeks. Last week, Efrain was crying about his machine being stalled by a virus resulting in great loss of data (gigabtyes of mp3s and band samples) and hardware. Sad.

I’ve been getting complaints like these on a regular basis and I’m getting tired of it. All because someone neglected to scan their flash drive. Damn things should come with a warning label. It’s a perfect example of the negative effects of technology — people hating people for owning a piece of technology. Is this an invitation for a new stereotype? Maybe.

For blaming sake, let’s blame a group of people for the cause…

I suspect that students are the ones carrying around these HIV-like infections. (I’ve got many reasons that go beyond the scope of this article but if you fancy it, give me call.) Face it, the level of IT security at your school sucks (except if you’re from SHC; they use Linux). This means that the computer labs at your school and internet shops are utopian destinations for these infections to multiply at such rate.

Put a thousand bunny rabbits on island. Introduce bunny rabbit with disease. Watch number of bunny rabbits decrease rapidly... Of course, some bunny rabbits like me and my IT friends will be immune to the disease. This doesn’t mean we’ll never succumb. Being the brave bunny rabbit that I am, out of anger and hatred, I say we make an attempt to control the disease.

9 Tips for Preventing Viruses, Trojan Horses, Worms, etc.

Most people don’t know the ins and outs of maintaining a stable, infection-free computer. Below is a list of actions you can take to protect your hardware and data from becoming victims of technological evil.

  1. Browse safe sites. I keep telling my mom (novice user) the internet is evil. Don’t click anything that’s blinking or that has the word free in it. One careless click will cost you in the longer run. If you like free stuff, you've got a lot to learn.
  2. Shareware is the evilest thing. Limewire? Bearshare? You asked for it. It’s because of you that I’m making this list. You have no idea what goes on behind that stuff. Use it for a couple months and you'll notice a drastic decrease in system performance, that is if you don't already know what I'm talking about. If you find yourself needing more than a gig of ram for normal use (and trust me, most of you are normal users), that's a side effect.
  3. Just say no. Computers are supposed to make life easier. They really can when you know how to control the damn things. Good maintenance starts off by putting a question mark on every USB/storage device. Nothing's wrong with doubting. The minute you start inserting foreign devices, you’re taking a risk. Think of it as abstinence; just say no. After all, it’s not your friend that’s going to pay the technician at the end of the month.
  4. Your antivirus is your best friend. Learn to use it. Learn all its features: how to update; how to delete a threat; how to scan; how to turn on the firewall; etc. I’m using AVG Antivirus and AVG Anti-Spyware; both are free. Norton works well but hags up too much system resources. Note: No antivirus can detect all viruses. If your antivirus fails to detect a threat, don’t be surprised.
  5. Update your antivirus as often as possible.
  6. Do not Autorun. Windows automatically asks you if you’d like to access a USB device immediately after insertion. Take no action. Locate the device manually via My Computer and scan before opening.
  7. Scan everything, every time. When formatting is not an option, scan every USB or storage device, including your digital camera, before accessing it. Scan your entire hard drive on a weekly basis.
  8. Have someone else do the dirty work. If you can't do without it, have your “friend” download the “free” stuff for you. Or use a designated machine for downloading and browsing evil sites, preferably one with Linux or Mac OS.
  9. Backup often. Data is most important not hardware (ask Efrain). Hardware is bought for data. So it's good to backup often; at least once per yearly quarter if you've got a lot of important stuff. I also recommended you back up installation files. It’s always good to have a good copy of your data just in case your antivirus fails.

Follow these recommendations and you’ll be a computer geek before you know it (if that's what you want). Now get out of my face.


Domanick Fabro said...

I know how this is, I see it every damn day at my job. Pisses me off.

Another good one to use besides AVG would be AVAST, I use Avast because i have a lot of cracks and shit on my pc for other bootleg programs i have (breaks into sweat) and AVG recognizes them as viruses and deletes then without my permission, arrogant lil bastard... lol. Avast always gives me an option whether or not to delete.

So true about none being a perfect defense tho.

UB is like totally infested with these guys, and a sure way to get it is to give your flash drive to the local programming teacher mr rabbani. lol.

Tracy Tillett said...

Deadly Buggers. I keep scanning usb devices and also my hard drive, I always try to keep clean :) My little brothers' usbs are infested; compared to MJC viruses/Trojans, UB's viruses are a mere flu. I'll email them the post.

Yea, you live by No. 8. I got my shield.

freeze said...

Good advice in time of great need!!! USB viruses are all over UB. In fact my C drive got corrupted a little while back and i highly suspect a virus as the cause.

AVG failed to catch the "ntdelect" virus every time. So i installed NOD32. I'm very pleased with the result. Havn't had any problems since.

Virtual Machines are good to use if you engage in high risk activities. (Like downloading cracks). If you get a virus you can simply delete the machine and pooof it's gone.

Anonymous said...

Now you tell me.................could have used this information a couple of months ago. anyway;
"fool me once... shame on you.If you fool me you can't get fooled again." pres. Bush.