Panda Points to USB as Popular Gateway for Worms

You have to be more careful than ever when it comes to sticking things into little holes. Get your mind out of the gutter, we're obviously talking about plugging electronic gadgets into USB ports, this being HotHardware and not Hot_____ (fill in the blank). That's the word from PandaLabs, which claims that 25 percent of new worms wiggling into the wild are specifically designed to spread through USB storage devices, where they can then copy themselves to a whole host of mobile hardware, like cell phones, DVDs, MP3 players, and more.

"At present, much of the malware in circulation has been designed to distribute through these devices," explains Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs. "Not only does it copy itself to these gadgets, but it also runs automatically when a USB device is connected to a computer, infecting the system practically transparently to the user. This has been the case with many infections we have seen this year, such as the distribution of the Mariposa and Vodafone botnets."

As would be expected, PandaLabs says circulating malware via USB has been "highly effective." In a survey of over 10,000 companies across 20 countries, PandaLabs claims nearly half admitted to having been infected with some type of malware during the last year, with 27 percent confirming that the infection originated from a USB device.

So what can you do? Be careful about the devices you plug into your PC. The problem with that, however, is that we've seen cases where malware comes preinstalled straight from the factory, like digital photo frames and even some driver discs.

If you want to put your trust in Panda, the company offers a utility called Panda USB Vaccine that disables the AutoRun feature in Windows.

"This is a very useful tool as there is no simple way of disabling the AutoRun feature in Windows. This tool makes it simple for users, offering a high level of security against infections through removable drives and devices", explains Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs.

Beyond that, consider dropping the tough guy routine, sucking it up, and installing antivirus software. While those who preach against running any type of AV software point out that safe computing habits are all you need, the reality is this isn't always enough.
Tags:  USB, Antivirus, Worms, Panda