Don’t plug it in
You are strolling back to the office after grabbing some lunch and you notice a USB laying on the ground. You have multiple options on how to proceed: A) you can just leave it there and not worry about; B) you can just chuck it into the nearest garbage as you are no fan of littering; C) you can feed your curiosity and take the USB and plug it into your computer.
If you answered “C” you are not alone. In a study published by researchers from the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan and Google, most people do in fact pick up and plug in a USB of unknown origin, they also open files, click on links, and send emails to unknown addresses. The researchers dropped 297 flash drives at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The flash drives contained files which matched the circumstances for wear it was dropped. Also on the flash drives was a HTML file that would notify researches when a USB was plugged and offered the user a chance to fie out a survey about why they picked up the USB.
Of the 297 flash drives, 135 (45%) users plugged in the USB and opened files. 290 of the flash drives were picked up (98%). Other users could have opened files on the USB but the researches wouldn’t have received that information if they weren’t connected to the internet.
Why not plug it in?
According to the security software company Sophos, lost USBs have a 66% chance of having some form of malware. Of 50 USBs purchased from a subway station lost and found in Sydney Australia, 33 USBs had some form of malware or infected files. You aren’t going to put a random pill you found into the body due the potential of that pill having adverse reactions for you body. A random USB should be viewed the same way.
Any form of untrusted media should be treated with extreme caution. Most computers you plug a USB into aren’t able to stop malware programs from running. The programs will run without your permission, even with anti-virus software.
Any unknown device could have a virus installed or steal your information. USB is the most common way, but beware with anything you plug into your computer or phone. If you don’t know where it came from, don’t use it.
The best thing to do with a found USB is to just turn it in over to the nearest lost and found or just throw it away. The idea of getting a free USB and saving a few dollars isn’t worth the potential headaches that could be caused by the content of the USBs.