What's new is old again, it seems. Security researchers are warning consumers to be cautious about using items like freebie flash drives that are given out as souvenirs at trade shows and similar events. There are recent reports of malware being loaded onto removable storage devices like USB flash drives, and even digital picture frames.
In mid-December, Kaspersky Lab senior virus analyst Aleks Gostev penned a blog post describing his experience with an infectious Compact Flash card for his digital camera. "We've already written more than once about viruses and worms which spread via removable storage media by launching automatically from autorun.inf," he said. "A number of users have also come across this type of malicious program. There are also a number of cases where hard disks, flash drives, MP3 players, and other devices were already infected with malware when shipped by the manufacturers."
In a report on the evolution of malware last year, Kaspersky Lab noted that in the first half of 2007, "so-called classic viruses demonstrated the most growth among all malware (+237%)," an increase attributed to the "highly widespread method of using flash drives to spread viruses." An example of this is a Skype worm spotted in September 2007 called Worm.Win32.Skipi.a that attempts to spread through Skype and through copying itself to attached flash drives.
Viruses have been around for so long now, some of them are deemed "classic." I'm getting old, I guess. I remember when people would leave floppy disks laying around with interesting looking labels, loaded with viruses, and wait for curious people to pass by. Good times.