Autorun stun: malware disables flash drives

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Junior Cameron C. struggles with the virus preventing his USB from autorunning. “This is annoying,” he said.

Losing saved data is one of the worst things that can happen  with a flash drive, but not being able to open  files is nearly as bad. The flash drive “virus” that has swept across campus  has many students lagging behind while opening and storing files.

” Technically it’s a malware, a script that runs commands although it doesn’t have the destructive deliveries and sophisticated mechanism that a virus has,” said tech support specialist   Brian Pilgreen. “This malware has been around for a couple of years now but this variant appeared at the end of last school year.”

This autorun malware has caused many inconveniences to those with infected flash drives. When the drives are plugged in, they appear with the folder icon, rather than the drive icon, and they do not open when they are double-clicked.

“It was so annoying because I had to print out an assignment for English but I couldn’t get my USB to open,” junior Cameron C. said.

However, time  is not the only thing being wasted in this situation.

“I accidentally threw my USB away because it thought it wouldn’t work correctly anymore,” freshman Hamaad M. said. “If only I knew that the virus only prevents autorun…”

Once, a conflict concerning the malware nearly resulted in the police being called.

“We were at a speech tournament and were exchanging information with our opponents,” senior Silvia C. said. “They had this high-tech anti-virus software installed and as soon as they plugged our USB in, it made a loud sound, alerting them that the USB had a virus. They accused us of giving them the virus although we had no idea of initially having it…Then they called the police on us but their coach told them to drop it.”

Silvia said she was frustrated by the time it took the school district to find a solution to the problem.

“The school should’ve dealt with this virus sooner, instead of having it spread around school,” she said.

Pilgreen explained that the malware was not a high priority for anti-virus software makers because it was inconvenient but not actively harmful to computers; however, it is now being tracked by Mcafee as a “Trojan,” or a type of harmful malware.

“Mcafee has updated its signature database to detect the particular variant found at Kerr,” he said.

Fortunately, there’s a way to quickly resolve the bug. Some students have deleted the hidden “autorun.inf” file on their flash drives, but an infected computer will place the malware right back on the drive.

“The safest way is to disable the autorun from your computer and USB key,” said Pilgreen.

He also recommended using free antivirus programs such as Avast and Avg, or using sites such as Kaspersky Online Scanner and Trend Micro Housecall to scan documents for malware.