Do NOT Make This Mistake If You Ever Find a Stray USB Drive

Joel Lee 26-04-2016

A life without USB drives would be a life not worth living. Think about it. USB drives can store tons of data, they transfer data super quickly 5 of the Fastest and Best USB 3.0 Flash Drives Which are the fastest USB 3.0 flash drives you can buy? Here are five of the best, ranging from $20 to $200. Read More , they’re way more convenient than optical discs — and most of all, you can do some amazing tricks with USB drives Are USB Flash Drives Still Worth It In 2015? USB flash drives are great for storage, but they have so many other uses. Here's how they're worth their weight in gold. Read More .


But be careful! If you ever find a stray USB drive or if somebody hands you one without good reason, then you should just ignore it. Whatever you do, do NOT stick it into your computer just because you’re curious.

According to a new study, almost half of all people who encounter a random USB stick will plug it into one of their machines and start opening files therein. Of these people, nearly 70 percent will take no precautions before plugging in and snooping.


Here’s the thing: USB drives can be extremely dangerous and compromise your security Why USB Sticks Are Dangerous & How To Protect Yourself USB drives are so pervasive in today’s world of technology, but when they first debuted, they revolutionized data exchange. The first USB flash drives had an 8MB capacity, which isn't much by today’s standards, but... Read More .

The biggest threat is the possibility of malware on the device. Would you download a random email attachment that was sent to you? I hope not! What if the file contains a virus that turns your computer into a botnet? Or a keylogger that scrapes your passwords and credit card numbers?


It’s no different with USB drives. In fact, it’s worse. The simple act of plugging in is often enough for any malware infection to spread and establish itself on your machine. Check out the BadUSB attack of 2014 Your USB Devices Aren't Safe Anymore, Thanks To BadUSB Read More if you don’t believe it can be that harmful.

So what should you do? Simple: do not even touch stray USB drives. Leave them be, and whatever you do, never plug them in. If you do, you’re just gambling — and if that gamble doesn’t fall in your favor, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.

What do you do when you find stray USB drives? Have you ever plugged in random ones out of curiosity? What’s your worst USB drive horror story? Tell us about it in the comments!

Related topics: Computer Security, Malware, USB Drive.

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  1. cpgeek
    April 27, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    it's not just for windows computers. something like this can kill pretty much anything with usb -

  2. Max
    April 27, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    I use a Virtual machine to look at it.

    • Niklas Stoyke
      May 16, 2016 at 7:33 am

      I would say, that this is a more secure way, but there are usb drives which aren't made to store data. There are USB drives which could destroy your computer hardware, inserting a high voltage back into your computer.

  3. JF Messier
    April 27, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Why wasting a USB drive, when you know how to properly wipe it before using it ? I do the following under Linux (of course):
    1. Disable auto-mount
    2. Get the list of storage devices with "fdisk -l"
    3. Wipe clean the USB device by using the dd command at the device level. That will wipe the partition table, the data, everything.
    4. Create new partition, preferably non-FAT/NTFS, for the entire disk, using GParted.

  4. HY Kok
    April 27, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Even on windows, why would one have autorun turn on by default especially on usb drive?

  5. TipSpy
    April 27, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Last time i checked, autoplay doesnt exist anymore. If you still have autoplay, and it is enabled, you kinda deserve to get a virus. but disable that then format it. Just dont run any programs on it and you will be fine.

    • john green
      December 29, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      Research USB Rubber Ducky. You are not safe.

  6. Andy
    April 27, 2016 at 9:37 am

    What an IDIOT. He assumes that we all run windows. My missus foud loads of sticks in the hotel she works. Usually there are documents (company files or student's files). One in particular had a hidden folder caled "WORK" He had a few gigs of hardcore porn. I found that hilarious. No viruses there, that's for sure. All clean and vaccinated.

  7. Nota Robot
    April 27, 2016 at 7:24 am

    I'll pick it up and reformat it using my office mate's personal laptop :-)

  8. Mike
    April 26, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    You could run any executables sand-boxed.

  9. Anonymous
    April 26, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    This is for Windows users

  10. Anonymous
    April 26, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Ubuntu will ask you before auto-opening anything (like an executable)

  11. Anonymous
    April 26, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    I can open it safely in Linux. Then I'd poke around the files before reformatting. Yes, I'm that curious.

  12. Anonymous
    April 26, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Back in the late '90s and early 2000s, you wouldn't put a stray floppy disk into a floppy disk drive on a PC as it could contain a virus and some schools or businesses would prohibit you from bringing in a floppy disk for this reason. Same thing here with USBs.

  13. William Peckham
    April 26, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Send them to me! I have an old PC loaded with a security distro based upon Debian linux. On accessing any media it performs a scan. Reformatting a USB device is generally easy, but if it was engineered to deliver a payload it will not format properly. In that case it will be pretty obvious.

    (Do NOT try that on a Windows machine! )

    Why let good hardware go to waste!

    • Anonymous
      April 26, 2016 at 2:42 pm

      Of course, you and Danny are gambling that the USB drive does not contain some Linux-based malware. :-)

    • phillw
      September 25, 2016 at 6:26 am

      ow ditto!! I'm in UK and can clean them and donate to schools / youth groups. As for linux malware? well, learn a simple command... it is called copy and compare ... sadly, cc was already in ues, so they called it dd ... now known as disk destroyer... and, it actually will do that to data when asked. If any one in UK has any and want to donate email me on phillw (at) phillw (dot) net