USB Safety: Reflect Before You Connect

With the increase in devices comes the increased need for charging. All devices with electronic components have firmware, which is coding that bridges the gap between software and hardware and tells a device how to function. This firmware can be the target for attackers seeking to infect users’ computers and/or smartphones with malware. Malware can log your keystrokes (obtaining sensitive information like passwords and bank information), turn on your webcam, or install viruses rendering your computer unusable. USB drives, also known as “flash drives” or “thumb drives” are another medium for this type of threat. Flash drives can be reprogrammed to spoof various other devices in order to take control of a computer. Unlike powered devices, a USB drive has the sole purpose of plugging into a computer, which means it is integral to buy from a trusted vendor.

Here are some tips on how to stay safe when using a USB drive:
  • Anything you plug into your computer should come from a legitimate source. Anything you plug into your computer should come from a legitimate source. If you are unsure about the origins of your device, the safest bet is always to plug it into a wall charger. Wall outlets with USB ports are becoming increasingly popular, especially in hotels and airports.
  • Another alternative is a USB charging hub that plugs into a wall. If computer charging is the only option, there are devices that can act as a barrier to sync between the computer and electronic devices.
  • When in doubt it is better to spend a few moments finding an electrical outlet than potentially infecting your computer and possibly an entire network

Have questions? We're here to help!

If you have questions about cybersecurity, or if you want to learn more about how to stay safe online, contact the Information Security Office (ISO) at: