USB Drives: Helpful or Harmful When It Comes to Cyber Threats?

Technology players know all too well the implications of having malware moving around on USB drives. A single virus can inflict massive disruption and loss of revenue, as cybercrooks increasingly take aim at big business. Did you know that certain companies actually ban the use of removable storage in their infrastructures altogether?

But not everyone is on the same page regarding the dangers of moving data via USB drives. Researchers recently uncovered that industries such as Oil & Gas, Energy, Chemical Manufacturing, Pulp & Paper, and other manufacturing facilities are severely prone to letting attackers in through this dusty old avenue. And while USB drives are useful vectors of initial infection, attacks leveraging USB drives revealed a tendency for hackers to establish remote access, and to download additional payloads as needed.

The Dangers of USB Devices

Using a tool dedicated to analyzing USB devices deployed in industrial facilities, Honeywell researchers obtained a relevant snapshot of industrial USB activity. The data sample represented files carried into production control facilities during day-to-day operations via USB removable storage devices, and was collected from across the US, South America, Europe and the Middle East.

A notable first finding in the research was that USB remains a top threat vector, even though many organizations restrict their use today. In 44% of the locations studied, at least one malicious or suspicious file was blocked, suggesting that the risk of infecting industrial facilities via USB is still consistent and statistically relevant.

The malware they found was notably small in volume, but potent. Some 26% of the malware “had the potential to cause a major disruption to an industrial control environment, including loss of view or loss of control, and 16% were targeted specifically against Industrial Control System (ICS) or Internet of Things (IoT) systems.”

How to Prevent These Threats?

Calling for more cyber-security education, researchers concluded that USB security hygiene is typically poor among the industries polled.

To learn more about how to protect your customers, contact us today!


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