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Safely learn your lessons
Back in the Stone Age, “information” was transmitted exclusively on hard media. And anyone attempting to steal “information” could easily be slayed with that very same “media”.
Over time, media has gotten much smaller and lighter: to transfer data between computers, people came to use floppy disks, flash drives, and special and ordinary hard drives (as well as the now-forgotten ZIP drives and Bernoulli disks and similar data carriers no longer capable of delivering a “death blow”). But, having lost the capacity to harm attackers, these media became their “helpers”. Thanks to the fact that PCs and mobile devices can be infected via removable media, Trojans can emerge in the most unexpected places.
Until recently, anti-virus users insisted that anti-virus developers supplement their solutions with a feature enabling anti-viruses to scan removable media at the moment they connect to a PC. And some companies did implement that feature in their products. But a flash drive (let alone an external hard drive) is not a 1.44 MB floppy disk. Scanning a hard drive of 1 GB or more can take a while. Blocking access to a computer while scanning is in progress (which could be for hours) is unacceptable. A malicious file will be detected by the file monitor (Dr.Web SpIDer Guard if Dr.Web is in use) as soon as any process attempts to access it for the very first time.
But the scanning duration is not the biggest problem. Many users disregard the standard disconnection procedure for removable devices (under Windows, this feature is called "safely remove hardware”) and just pull out their flash drives and hard disks. If, at that moment, a media device is being accessed by the anti-virus, the data stored on it can be damaged.
To analyse files, an anti-virus doesn't merely read data blocks. To extract the contents of files, it can write the blocks into separate files or place them outside a target file's boundaries.
It can even get more complicated if the removable device doesn't feature an LED indicator showing when the device is being accessed. So, because users simply can't see that a process is using the disk, they unplug it as soon as they finish working with it.
With the proliferation of network drives and the emergence of cloud storage services, fewer users are requesting automatic scanning for removable media (although there is still some demand for it). But, as you know, history has a way of repeating itself, and removable media has returned. And a spectacular return it is!
At its conference in Las Vegas, Amazon announced its plans to use trucks to shuttle customer data to its cloud storage facility.
Amazon believes it takes too much time to transfer the data over the Internet and that using trailers will speed things up significantly. The special trailer, called Snowmobile, was unveiled right in the conference hall. One such truck will be able to transfer 5 PB (petabytes) of data.
The trailers will collect data at client offices and haul it to Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers. The whole process will take far less time than uploading the data over the Internet, the Wall Street Journal wrote. Ten Snowmobile trucks can transfer 1 PB of data in less than six months. Uploading the same volume of information over the Internet would take about 26 years.
We’re wondering: what happens if this data storage medium is unplugged while it’s being scanned by an anti-virus?
And how do you disconnect flash drives from your computer?
- I'm always pulling out USB sticks without doing anything else, and everything is always OK.
- I always use the Safely Remove hardware feature to unplug my devices.
- I didn't use the feature before, but I now realise that was a mistake.
Dr.Web solutions aren't equipped with a feature for scanning removable media automatically. Malicious files are detected when accessed for the very first time—for example, while a file is being extracted.
If someone has given you a flash drive or if a family member has been using it (at school or in their office), be sure to scan it with your anti-virus before you do anything else with the device. Just right-click on the disk icon and select the appropriate action in the drop-down list.