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USB Security Problems and Solutions

USB Security Problems and Solutions

With over 3 billion USB devices shipped a year (a large proportion of them USB flash drives), there is no doubt that the majority of us are familiar with this technology.

Indeed, with USB flash drives in particular, most if not all of us have owned one or many in the past.

With how often we all mindlessly insert our flash drives into computers, you would think that these nifty little devices are immune to security breaches. The truth of the matter however is that all USB products, including flash drives, are vulnerable to several incredibly destructive forms of malware.

To understand why they are vulnerable, you first need to understand that all USB devices include a firmware chip, which controls its basic bare-bones functions.

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Think of firmware as being akin to your brain stem, in that it unconsciously regulates some basic (but vital) functions in USB devices, like how they communicate with computers.

Why is this significant? Well, one form of malware, dubbed “BadUSB,” infects USB products by latching onto their firmware. But that’s not all you have to look out for. “USBdriveby” remotely attacks your computer’s USB ports, and is equally difficult to detect.

1. BadUSB

What is BadUSB and how does it work? As I hinted at above, BadUSB is a kind of malware that basically exists within the code of a USB device’s firmware.

When you plug in a USB device infected with BadUSB, the malware has the capability to “completely take over a PC, invisibly alter files installed from the memory stick, [and] even redirect [your] internet traffic.”

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BadUSB and malware like it are dangerous because they’re incredibly hard to defend against. Standard virus and malware scanners won’t detect them, because they are unable to check a device’s firmware.

The only way to really know if a USB device has BadUSB would be to analyze its firmware code line by line and see where the malware was inserted. Obviously, that’s no small task for the average user or even most experts.

2. USBdriveby

If BadUSB doesn’t scare you, then USBdriveby might. USBdriveby is essentially a remote that interacts with your computer’s USB ports, gains access, and proceeds to wreak havoc.

Like BadUSB, USBdriveby takes advantage of the inherent flaws within USB protocols. What it does first is pretend it’s a USB mouse or keyboard. Then, it shuts down your computer’s security, opens up a backdoor so that a hacker can later gain access, and exits your system without leaving a trace.

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Unless you’re really good at rummaging through your computer’s operating system, you won’t find the backdoor until it’s too late.

3. Solutions

Can USBdriveby be stopped? Not really, since the problem lies in USB architecture itself, meaning you’d need to strip your devices of USB ports to keep them completely safe.

All you can really do to stop something like USBdriveby is to keep your electronics away from anything resembling the remote/microcontroller device pictured here.

What about something like BadUSB? Can anything be done about that? Well, again, not really, but you can take steps to defend yourself. Basically, you just need to be more cautious when you’re using USB devices.

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For instance, don’t plug your flash drive into a suspicious computer, and don’t plug a suspicious flash drive into your computer.

Yes, in some sense, researchers are asking that we treat USB devices like “hypodermic needles.”

Beyond getting us to be more wary around USB products, researchers are making an effort to get companies and USB manufacturers to acknowledge that these kinds of malware are a major issue. They hope this will lead to changes not only in the way we use these devices, but in the way they are designed.

It was only a matter of time before people started to try and take advantage of an ubiquitous technology like USB. Might it be time to move on to other, more secure forms of data distribution? With the rise of cloud services like Dropbox, perhaps (though these have their own issues).

Still, I don’t think we’ll be giving up USB any time soon, if only for the sake of convenience. Let’s hope that somebody develops a fix that removes the enormous vulnerabilities inherent to the USB architecture, else we could all be facing malware-related problems in the future.

Featured photo credit: Custom USB Pencil/ Custom USB via flickr.com

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Published on September 17, 2020

10 Best Monitors for Your PC Under $100

10 Best Monitors for Your PC Under $100

Are you looking for the best monitor under $100?

Whether you want it for your home office, editing photography, or gaming, you don’t need to spend big bucks on a display screen because a low budget one will certainly do the trick.[1]

We can almost hear you having second thoughts about the picture quality, but you don’t have to worry at all.[2]

Our list of the best monitors under $100 will be more than enough to cover you. Just go through it now, and you’ll find yourself a bargain.

Why You Should Trust Us

Our list incorporates some of the best low-budget monitors available in the market. Their efficiency and distinctive traits enable them to stand out from others.[3] The hand-picked ones below are incredibly slick and have a high refresh rate, fast response time, high resolution, and built-in speakers.

1. Acer Ultra Thin Frame Monitor

    Our first affordable computer screen is Acer’s 21.5-inch ultra-thin frame monitor. It has a refresh rate of 75Hz using an HDMI port and offers a full HD widescreen display.

    Its brightness can be maxed out at 250 nits. It has a slight tilt angle ranging from -5 to 15, as well as Radeon free sync technology.

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    Buy this computer monitor.

    2. Sceptre Ultra-Thin Display

      Sceptre is another company that provides excellent displays for your CPU. The screen size is a little smaller at 20 inches, but it’s made up for the slightly lower price than Acer. It also comes with two HDMI ports and built-in speakers and is wall mount ready.

      Buy this computer monitor.

      3. ViewSonic LED Monitor

      best monitor

        If you want the best monitor to set up in your office or around the house, ViewSonic’s LED screen is another good option to buy. The resolution is full HD and has a broader tilt ranging from -5 to 23 degrees.

        On top of that, the product comes with a 3-year warranty. Included in the bundle are a VGA cable, monitor, power cable, and audio cable.

        Buy this computer monitor.

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        4. ViewSonic Gaming Screen

          While we just covered a ViewSonic monitor, this one is specifically built for gaming in mind.

          Overall, this computer screen provides the same specs as the previously mentioned item. The key differences are that this one is slightly longer, comes with pre-set customizable visual modes, and offers a maxed out contrast, delivering a dynamic contrast ratio for sharp and crisp images. It also comes with a DVI cable.

          Buy this computer monitor.

          5. Asus Back Lit Monitor

          best monitor

            If you don’t mind spending a little more money, you can get an Asus Back Lit Monitor for your PC. A lot of the focus is on image quality, particularly having a strong contrast ratio and smart video technology for straight viewing. That feature also helps in reducing blue light since you’ll have more flexibility with the colors and brightness.

            Buy this computer monitor.

            6. Asus Back Lit Display

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              Another alternative to the previous Asus monitor is this one. It has a smaller contrast ratio, though it still delivers a smooth video display. You also have aspect controls, so you can adjust its display.

              Buy this computer monitor.

              7. Dell Ultrasharp Panel Monitor

              best monitor

                If you’re looking for the basic features, look no further than Dell. There’s nothing particularly fancy about this panel screen, but it does the job well for any computer.

                Its response time is 8ms, which is typical for a monitor. It can come in either silver or black.

                Buy this computer monitor.

                8. ViewSonic Frameless Monitor

                  If you liked ViewSonic’s LED monitor but wanted a little more features, we suggest looking at their frameless display. While it boasts similar specs as the brand’s other monitors, it offers color correction and dual built-in speakers, making it ideal for office and home use. It’s also 22 inches long.

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                  Buy this computer monitor.

                  9. Dell Mountable LED-Lit Monitor

                    For a dependable display with a good frame rate, Dell has a mountable, LED-lit monitor in the market. It measures 18.5 inches, has an adjustable arm, and has been through rigorous testing for long-lasting reliability. You can’t go wrong with this best monitor either.

                    Buy this computer monitor.

                    10. Sceptre Monitor

                      The final screen to cover comes from Sceptre. Compared to the ultra-thin version mentioned above, this one is available in 22 inches. Beyond that, it’s your standard display that provides decent tilting at -5 to 15 degrees, wall-mounted capabilities, 5ms response time, and built-in speakers.

                      Buy this computer monitor.

                      Final Thoughts

                      Finding one of the best monitors around can be tricky. If you’re looking for an affordable one that can last for years, consider picking a computer screen from this list.

                      Featured photo credit: Sebastian Bednarek via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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