HELP - I think we have a VIRUS

Your Flash Drives and Their Security
 by Richard Rossbauer 

This Article was first published at the website by Richard Rossbauer

Jump drive, flash drive and thumb drive are all names for the same kind of storage device

A Flash drive is an external drive used to save digital information. It usually connects to your computer via a USB port and can range from 256MB to several gigabytes in storage capacity.

Flash drives have several useful features.

they are portable. You can use them anywhere you have a computer with a USB port. Your data is always with you when you need it.

Second, they are durable. You can hang them on a lanyard, place them in your purse or in your pocket. Because of their size and lack of moving parts, they'll survive a bit of bouncing with no problems.

Third, they can store massive amounts of data for almost instantaneous retrieval. You can keep your pictures, music, videos and movies on flash drives to be used anywhere. How many do you need?  Realistically, you only need as many flash drives as you have different tasks to use them for. For example, personal and business needs can be kept separately on two flash drives.

Buy your flash drive with future storage in mind. Capacities as high as 4GB and 8GB are relatively inexpensive. As of the date of this report, USB flash drives with 16GB capacity are also available. To determine if it's time to buy a new one, or to see how much available memory you have on your flash drive, just plug one in to your computer. Open up My Computer

You will see all of your computer storage media listed there. Under Removable Storage, you will see your flash drive listed according to the port it is attached to. Right clicking on the picture will reveal a menu. Choose Properties and view a graph showing both used and free space.

If you're running low on available free space, take a look at all of those files you have saved. You can delete any you no longer need to carry around with you. In all probability, those files still exist on your computer hard drive, anyway.

If you're concerned about an un-authorized person accidentally reading your private data, there are flash drives available that feature a sensor strip which allows users to access protected data by simply scanning their fingerprint. This technology makes it easy to safely store personal files and sensitive official documents.

Flash drives are useful for portable storage when you don't need to take your laptop along. But there are some potential problems when plugging your USB flash drive into someone else's computer. Someone else is in charge of its security, you don't know how long ago the last security scan was run, and you probably don't know if the Operating System and browser have been updated with the latest security patches.

Flash Drive Security

If you connect to an infected PC and are unprotected, the risks of a virus or spyware infecting your flash drive are high. (The Conficker worm spread to thousands of computers through infected USB flash drives).

There is something you can do to protect yourself. Install a program like AntiVir personal Edition(*) to your flash Drive, not the hard drive (It's relatively small at about 33 mbytes). Installed and running directly from your flash drive, it should stop any viral attacks from an infected system. Just be sure that it's up-to-date before plugging it in to a foreign PC.

Protect your flash drive from picking up unwanted spyware in a similar manner. But this time, install Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition(*) directly to your PC's hard drive like you would any other program. Once installed, go to Start, Programs, Copy the Ad-Aware file, and Paste it into your flash drive.

And because the flash drive is portable, the likelihood of using it on a foreign PC does exist, and you'll be protected when, or if it becomes necessary to read your files on someone else's computer.

(*) Available for free at c|net download. Click on "Security Software" under the Windows Software heading at

 ...Richard Rossbauer
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Richard started his "Firewalls and Virus Protection" website and "Security Alert News Reporter" to help everyday Internet users navigate safely through the Cyber Space that has become a 'Cyber Jungle', loaded with ambushes and booby traps. He promotes his "Computer Security Awareness Campaign" thru his website at

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