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How to protect yourself from infected USB sticks

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How to protect yourself from infected USB sticks: The usefulness of USB flash drives cannot be quantified! In fact, thanks to a tiny pendrive I can exchange hundreds and hundreds of files with all my friends. But we must also look at the other side of the coin: USB sticks are the perfect prey for viruses and malicious software. It is enough to connect a virus infected pendrive to a “healthy” PC to compromise the proper functioning of the latter. Think, nine of the ten USB sticks that I connected to my multimedia station in recent days were infected with dangerous viruses, ready to turn the computer upside down.

At this point, I’m sure, you may be wondering: how does a USB stick infect a PC? Simple, the fault lies with a file called “autorun.inf”. This file contains the indication of which program, contained or not in the pendrive, must be started when connecting the stick to the computer. In infected pendrives, the file in question therefore tells the PC to start the virus contained in it so that it can attack Windows.

The way to protect yourself? Also in this case the answer is simple: delete the autorun.inf files contained in the USB sticks or prevent them from being executed, thus preventing the start of programs and / or viruses of the pendrive without explicit consent from the user . If you want to know more about what to do and in particular if you want to find out what tools you have on your side to avoid the occurrence of a situation of this type, continue reading my guide dedicated to how to protect yourself from infected USB sticks . I can assure you that in the end you will have a rather complete picture of the situation and you can be happy with what you have learned.

“Standard” functions to protect yourself from infected USB sticks

As we said at the beginning, to defend yourself from infected pendrives and therefore prevent the proper functioning of your PC from being compressed, you just need to disable the automatic start function of external drives connected to Windows. To do this, you need to disable the use of AutoPlay .

In doing so, however, keep it in mind, not only will the automatic start of the pendrives be disabled, but also that of any other units that will be connected to the computer. To find out how to proceed on the various versions of Windows, read on.

On Windows 10

If you want to disable the AutoPlay function and if what you are using is a computer with Windows 10 installed , the first step you need to do to succeed is to click on the Start button (the one with the Windows flag at the bottom of left of the taskbar) and press the Settings icon (the one with the gear ) in the menu that opens.

Continue now by clicking on the Devices item  in the window you see on the desktop, then select the AutoPlay item on the left and turn the switch at the top to Disabled . Done!

If you then need to activate the AutoPlay function again, you can do it by going to the Windows settings section dedicated to device management as seen together and bringing the switch you find in correspondence with the wording AutoPlay to Disabled .

On Windows 8 / 8.x and earlier versions

If what you are using is instead a computer with a version of the Microsoft home operating system installed or running on Windows 8 / 8.x , you can disable the AutoPlay function by first clicking on the Start button (the one with the Windows flag in the part at the bottom left of the taskbar), by opening the Control Panel by looking for it in the Start Screen or in the Star t menu that opens (depends on the version of Windows used), by typing  autoplay through the appropriate bar located at the top of the window that has opened and selecting its icon.

In the window that you will later see appear on the desktop, remove the check from the Use AutoPlay for all media and devices box at the top and then click the Save button at the bottom to confirm and apply the changes made to the system.

Clearly, in case you have to think about it you can always and again reactivate the functionality in question by going to the same section of the control panel above and removing the check from the box next to the item  Use AutoPlay for all media and all devices that is up. Also in this case, remember to click on the Save button to save the changes you have made to the OS.

Third-party tools to protect yourself from infected USB sticks

In addition to taking advantage of the functions already included in Windows, you can protect yourself from infected USB sticks by using third-party tools .

In this way, you can easily leave the AutoPlay function enabled, being sure that any pendrive containing viruses will not affect your PC. The resources that in my opinion represent the best in the category are listed below. Try them now!

iKill

How to protect yourself from infected USB sticks

The first of the third-party resources useful for the purpose that I want to suggest you to use is called iKill . This is a free program that works on all versions of Windows that has as its sole objective to block the autorun processes and prevent self-executable files from installing viruses on the PC. Let’s see immediately how to use it.

First of all, connected to the iKill download page that you find on the Softpedia website, then click on the Download button that is at the top left and, in the box that appears on the screen, presses the Sofpedia Secure Download (UE) button . Wait a few moments for the program to be downloaded to your computer and then open the ZIP package obtained and extract it to any position on the PC. Then start the file that was contained inside it by double-clicking on it.

In the window that opens, click on the Next button three times in a row, press Yes and at the end of the installation press the Close button . Now, to open the iKill program, double click on its icon created on the desktop of your computer and then double click also on the icon you see appearing in the system tray, next to the Windows clock.

To start iKill automatically when the computer starts, make sure that Startup with Windows is checked  in the main program window. Also check the box next to Enable AutoProtect to have the program automatically delete the autorun.inf files contained in the USB sticks that you connect to the PC.

I would also like to point out the possibility of managing the settings for using the program by going to the Settings tab of the same (for example, you can choose whether to display specific notifications, error logs, etc.), while using the Process and Services tabs you can view the processes and services possibly used by the pendrives connected to the computer. In the Tools tab there are some useful tools that can be useful in situations such as the one in question.

Panda USB Vaccine

As an alternative to the above program, you can appeal to  Panda USB Vaccine . It is a zero-cost tool developed by Panda Security, the famous software house producing antivirus solutions. The program works by preventing automatic execution of malware. It is very easy to use and is highly effective. In short, try it now and you will see that it will satisfy you.

To download it to your computer, connected to the software download page and click on the Download button  located at the bottom of the screen. Fill in the form you see appearing with the requested data (name, e-mail address, etc.) and click Send . Access now the e-mail address you specified in the form, open the e-mail sent to you by the company and click on the link inside to download the program file on your PC.

Now proceed to extract the ZIP archive obtained in any position on your computer and start the executable file that was inside it by double-clicking on it. Then click on Yes and OK . Then press the Next button , check the box to accept the terms of use of the software and click Next three times in succession. Finally press on Finish and wait for the software to start.

Now, to prevent any malicious content from being executed every time a pendrive is connected to the computer, click on the Vaccinate computer button . Done! To cancel the software action, press again on the button in question.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to immunize your computer against a specific USB stick, connect the latter to the PC, select the name from the menu that you find under the wording  Select an USB drive and click on the Vaccinate USB button  . In case of second thoughts, press again on the button in question to disable the action of the software.

Additional useful tips

The implementation of the above practices as well as the use of programs to protect yourself from the infected USB sticks of which I have spoken to you cannot ignore the presence on your computer of a good antivirus because, while preventing a virus from entering into action when the infected pendrive is connected to the multimedia station, nothing prevents you from starting it by mistake, when for example you find yourself working with the files contained in the pendrive.

Taking this into account as well as the fact that it is possible to run into any computer threats even surfing the net, opening any files sent by e-mail from friends and colleagues, documents etc., I strongly suggest you, in case you have not already done so , to download and install a good antivirus software on your PC, there are some that are free and paid. If you want some advice about it and especially if you want to deepen the matter, I invite you to read my guide on the best antivirus and the one on the best paid antivirus .

And on Mac?

Until now we have talked about the Windows universe without mentioning the Mac side. This is because first of all when the pendrives are connected to an Apple brand computer they behave differently than what happens on Windows but then also because the viruses for macOS are in significantly less quantity than for computers based on the Microsoft operating system. Furthermore, they are not the same. This is because macOS is an extremely less popular operating system than Windows, but also because Apple often manages to intervene in a timely manner by blocking the holes that occasionally threaten the security of its software.

Hence, the viruses present on the pendrives are not able to compromise the functioning of Macs when “designed” for Windows. On the basis of what has been said, therefore, no particular form of prevention should be carried out. However, this does not go beyond installing a good antimalware capable of performing an on-demand scan on macOS, not so much for the security of your computer but for that of Windows PCs with which files are possibly shared.

Many antivirus for Mac are in fact able to recognize malware for Windows operating systems and therefore prevent infected files from being transferred to friends and colleagues using a Microsoft operating system. For further information in this regard, you can refer to my guide dedicated to antivirus for Mac through which I proceeded to talk about the thing in great detail as well as to show you which are, in my opinion, the best resources in the category.