There is, unfortunately, no insulated digital condom for USB sticks. Infections can be transmitted both ways as soon as you slide the stick into the slot, whether it’s a laptop, TV, copy machine or any other USB device. But, it’s not just the risk of catching and transmitting viruses USB users have to worry about, your infection might turn the machine into a zombie and add it to a criminal botnet or worse…
A couple of years ago, there was a demonstration of something far more lethal than a USB stick infected with malware. Some clever sod came up with a tiny circuit that would take a current from these hybrid data-power ports and become charged up and then blast the port with a sudden surge of power that would literally burn out the recipient’s innards.
The malicious device exploits a hardware vulnerability that manufacturers have not bothered to fix in the 20-year history of USB and there is no prophylactic to save your bits…or bytes. It is now available to anyone who fancies ruining somebody else’s equipment, sabotaging computers at work or indeed anywhere they can stick their USB.
If someone offers to put a USB in your port or sends you a free one in the mail to stick in the slot yourself, just say no, no matter how attractive the digital offer, nor how much you really want to. It’s just not worth it.
USB – Don’t die of ignorance.