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Worms Dig Deeper Than Just Flash Drives

June 16, 2009

Most every day I see AutoRun worms somewhere. You may know the kind, the worms that are designed to replicate onto removable drives. There is certainly no shortage of these little monsters.

Often the worm, although problematic itself, is just the harbinger of potential doom. More malicious malware obtained by these worms can lead to full-blown havoc — or, at a minimum, a very bad day.

So I was thinking of potential new vectors when it hit me–there are a few right under our noses that some people just might overlook. A kind of “can’t see the forest for the trees” scenario.

Here’s a little quiz: Which of the following devices may be susceptible to AutoRun worms?

A) Most USB devices that you can plug into your computer that have storage

B) All of the above

If you answered A (or B), you’re right! (That wasn’t hard, was it?)

How many of you have an MP3 player? How many of you plug the device into more than one computer? Bingo, that’s a vector for replication.

How about a digital video camera, or a digital picture frame? Yep, they can also be infected. Just imagine this one: “Here you go grandma, a picture of little Bobby. Oh, and a little surprise to go with it, as well.”

Now, the truly paranoid (or truly cautious?) administrators have been known to swab glue into the USB connectors so that they seal off access completely. This may not be the best way to solve the problem (think disabling AutoPlay, up-to-date antivirus, enabling a firewall, etc.).

But going down the road to prevention, however, is not the point I’m trying to make. There is already a myriad of advice on the Internet for that. All I am trying to say is that the spread of AutoRuns can go beyond the USB drives we all use to conveniently move stuff around. Devices such as MP3 players are just glorified storage drives with additional functions. One unintended aspect of this functionality may be to assist in worm propagation.

Hopefully, you do already think about these devices as a legitimate way to pass along a worm. In that case, maybe the most you got out of this little blog post was some lighthearted entertainment (or at least a break from whatever you were doing).

If you haven’t thought about this vector, though, I urge you to start now and to proceed with caution the next time you are going to offload and share that video, or grab the latest hit song.

That way you can say, “Hold the side of ‘autorun.inf’ with my music, thank you very much.”

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