USB Drive Drop2017 promises to be a good year for pirate enthusiasts like me. Black Sails will be back for its fourth season on Starz, and I just saw the new trailer for Disney’s next POTC movie, Dead Men Tell No Tales. I (and much of the world if ratings are any indicator) am captivated by these tales of pirates and their renegade lifestyle. Hollywood has glamorized the crime for us and created handsome new symbols of freedom, adventure and raucous living. What’s not to love?

Perhaps as a result of my fascination for movie pirates, I’m also a bit infatuated with today’s digital pirates (AKA hackers). Not only do I want to know about all their schemes in an attempt to protect myself, but if I’m honest, I’m also a bit amazed by the creative ways these evil geniuses invent to steal information.

Take the USB Drive Drop. It’s a clever new way thieves are using to prey on the goodness of strangers in order to steal their information. So simple, yet undeniably innovative. And sadly, so productive. Here’s how it works:

By and large, most people have an innate desire to help one another. If, for instance, one was to find a USB drive inadvertently left in a coffee house, or on the ground, effort would most likely be made to return the item to its owner. A typical first response would probably be to pop it in a computer and see if it holds any identifying information useful to establishing ownership.

Sadly, this is where karma fails, or perhaps “curiosity kills the cat.” By trying to be nice (or nosy), unsuspecting “Good Samaritans” are falling victim to hackers. Thieves are now loading hundreds of generic USB drives with viruses and leaving them around town in conspicuous places. Once inserted into an unsuspecting computer, the virus — often a Keylogger Trojan — is released. The virus starts keeping track of everything being typed and transmitting that information back to the hacker. From there the information is digitally analyzed by a computer program designed to identify and extract specific strings of information; typically, a bank’s URL followed by a username and password, or perhaps a credit card number followed by the expiration date and security code.

Danger is everywhere, and it’s important that we be informed and remain vigilant. I’m certainly not suggesting that we stop being helpful, merely suggesting that in this case, a trip to the Lost and Found might be the best option.

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