Tune IT Up

From Fermilab Today, July 27, 2009

Safe flash driving

Flash drive
Flash drives can spread computer viruses.

During the past few weeks, Fermilabís computer security incident-response team has been tracking an epidemic. A single virus infected multiple machines multiple times. As it turns out, employees were spreading the virus by sharing a single flash drive, a data storage device that plugs into a computerís USB port.

One reason for this virusís quick spread is a computer setting. Most Fermilab computers are set to run automatically anything you plug or insert into them. By the time you see a small pop-up window asking what action you would like to perform, your computer has already been exposed to any viruses the flash drive or removable media may contain.

The Computing Division is taking action to prevent this from happening. On Tuesday, under the direction of Vicky White, Fermilabís chief information officer, Computing Division will automatically change these settings on all machines in the Fermi Windows domain. This will disable windows from popping up automatically when you plug in a device, such as a flash or thumb drive. To access information on the device, you can navigate to it through your My Computer folder. For detailed instructions, click here.

To further protect your machine from viruses on removable media, please follow these guidelines:

  • Reserve a flash drive for personal use. Only use this to transfer files between your own machines. Do not use it on your home machine if anyone else uses that machine.
  • Buy a handful of inexpensive flash drives for one-time use at conferences. The computer used for projecting talks at conferences is particularly likely to infect your flash drive because many other flash drives at the conference have been plugged into it.
  • Do not accept free flash drives at trade shows or conferences unless they are sealed in the original packaging.

-- Mark Leininger, computer security manager

Last modified: 09/30/2011 |