Tip of the Day 11/07
That free device you found in the parking lot or got as a sweet swag gift at the last conference is INFECTED!!!! Well not really, I wouldn’t know that for sure but you were told to never stick things you don’t know where it’s been in your mouth… Why would you do that to your system?
Let’s go over the possible ways you can protect your PC from random USB devices.
- Use an air-gapped PC: That is to say, a computer that isn’t—and may have never been—connected to the internet. These machines are stripped of any extraneous applications and used solely for functions requiring the highest levels of security. They don’t contain photos or any other types of files that could be compromised. In a worst-case scenario, the offline computer serves as a burner phone, of sorts. If the USB was infected, your PC may be ruined, but you won’t have lost anything of vital importance.
- Run a live Linux ISO: Most Linux distributions have the ability to download a live version. These versions are full read-only distributions that can run off a DVD or another USB medium. These will allow you to clean the USB device before use without the worry of what is on the drive!
- Use a protected Virtual Machine: To be clear this method is the least secure of the three but is the easiest of the three. It’s a delicate act between convenience and safety. VirtualBox is free and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. One important item of note is that you’ll need a Windows or macOS license if you intend to use one of them inside your virtual environment, also known as a “sandbox.” Linux, however, is free. Once downloaded, just run the installer and follow the on-screen prompts. VirtualBox has a bit of a learning curve, but the documentation—complete with an installation and troubleshooting guide—is excellent. And if you get stuck, there’s always the instructions. Just make sure you use USB in the sandbox mode. This should allow you to control the device without issues with the host machine.
Before you decide to plug in an unknown device protect your computer!
Can you hack it?