The USB Virus

According to, a virus is “a segment of self-replicating code planted illegally in a computer program, often to damage or shut down a system or network.” USB viruses can be caught and spread rapidly and to combat them many anti-virus programs are only able to quarantine them. There are ways to be safe and protect your sensitive files, but it’s important to know that when you use your flash drive, external hard drive, camera, etc. with numerous USB ports, you are always at risk.


With USB technology, it has become very simple to plant and spread viruses on a mass scale. The problem with these viruses are simple: anti-virus software have a difficult time locating them and if they do they usually can only quarantine them. Viruses can lay dormant for years and pop-up unexpectedly. Some recent examples include the Conficker Worm virus which attacked a vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows server and spread to over 18 countries and is thought to have infected millions of computers. And as recently as 2008, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn verified a report that a memory stick was used to infect a U.S. military laptop in the middle east. The size and ease flash drives provide leave computers susceptible to viruses such as these, but although they are difficult to remove, it’s not impossible.


When a worm attaches itself to a hard drive it releases hundreds of hidden files. You can manually delete these files, but because they copy themselves so quickly they will keep coming back. When you insert your flash drive in the USB port a menu should pop up on the desktop. Cancel this menu and locate the flash drive on the control panel. At this point you can locate most of the infected files from here. Opening the flash drive or whatever external device you are using from the USB port will only allow more viruses to attack. In addition, make sure you scan your computer regularly so that if a virus does pop-up, they can be quickly quarantined.

Ultimately, the ease and spread of USB viruses are difficult to stop because of their dormancy, hidden files and rate at which they copy themselves. However, there are ways to fight these viruses including anti-virus software and accessing the files through the control panel.