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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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Last Updated on November 19, 2019

10 Smartest Productivity Software to Boost Work Performance

10 Smartest Productivity Software to Boost Work Performance

Productivity is the ability to perform tasks efficiently and in a timely manner. In today’s busy and competitive business world, productivity is paramount for any business, organization or corporation.

Productivity is more than just performing tasks successfully. It is about investing and allocating resources, so the company or business can perform to meet its core goals.

As part of 2019, it is important to commit to new goals. When shopping around for new productivity software keep in mind the following things: cost, reliability, cross-platform compatibility, on the go, technical support, etc.

In the subsequent sections, we will examine the most recommended productivity software in the marketplace. In addition, we will look at what makes them tick and what separates them from the rest of the pack.

Projects and Tasks Management

1. Monday dot com

    Monday dot com was founded to create a team management solution so people connect to workplace processes across any industry. The productivity tool is used in more than 140 countries.

    The user interface is intuitive and impressive. It makes collaboration productive and fun because of its simplicity.

    The tool is deemed to have one of the best user experiences across the mobile and online project and task management platform.

    The product includes usability, customization, admin control, group management and control, private or public control, in-group messaging and more.

    Check out the software here!

    2. Asana

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      The mantra behind Asana’s product is to enable teams from across different organizations to work together effortlessly.

      The software comes with lots of customizations. When you create a project as a user, you can choose between a traditional task view and the kanban-style board view. The dashboard allows you to see the progress on a project, and it includes an excellent advanced set of search tools.

      Also, Asana’s Android and iOS apps do retain the web interface’s clean look and feel.

      Check out the software here!

      3. Trello

        Trello was founded in the summer of 2010 and two years later the platform added 500,000 members. Anyone within sales, marketing, HR and operations can collaborate successfully with this product.

        Moreover, the tool has over 100 plus integrations with Google Drive, Slack, Jira and others. The product works flawlessly across various platforms.

        Some of the well-known features includes is speed, easy-to-use, and set up. The interface includes due dates, assignments, file storage, checklists and more.

        Check out the software here!

        4. Jira

          The Jira software is flexible and heralded as the next-generation project.

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          The software allows teams to design and adapt the software to an organization’s needs. This includes having visibility into long term goals, project roadmaps, status of work, real-time release information and more. In addition, the interface is customizable.

          The Atlassian Cloud does not support multiple separate domains, subdomains or domain aliases in Google Apps.

          Check out the software here!

          5. Evernote Business

            Evernote was founded in 2008 and reached 11 million users by 2011. The company was founded on the premise that their product should address the ever-increasing volume and speed of information.

            The product helps bring together groups of teams because of versatility and functionality. It creates documents, collaboration on projects, store information all a single location.

            Moreover, you can find information quickly and includes effective search capabilities and integrations with existing tools you may already use.

            Check out the software here!

            Communication

            6. Slack

              Slack was founded in 2013 and the tool is heralded as a collaboration hub. Slack is where productivity happens. When you start a new project, hire new staff, deploy a code, review a sales contract, finalize on a budget, Slack covers all of these. Some of the major highlights include highly customizable notifications and seamless integrations with other collaboration and office tools. The free version of the software comes loaded with features, but does not archive old message. So, you have to review what are the best options for your organization or business.

              Check out the software here!

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              7. Spike

                Newcomer Spike makes emails more conversational by helping teams maintain productivity, communication, and collaboration. All of these are achieved from within their inbox.

                Spike works on top of any existing email (O365, G suite, and IMAP) turning it into a real-time messenger and making your communication much more functional and efficient.

                Spike’s features include built-in groups and channels, voice and video calls, email encryption, instant access to all your files, and much more.

                Check out the software here!

                Creation

                8. Office 365

                  Microsoft’s Office 365 could not be excluded from the conversation and especially as it pertains to productivity software.

                  Of course we are all familiar with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. But there is more capabilities that come with it.

                  You have business-class email, online storage space, and teamwork solutions. These services can be accessed from just about anywhere.

                  Within this suite is Microsoft Sway, which is a presentation software and a step above PowerPoint.

                  Check out the software here!

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                  9. Grammarly

                    Grammarly helps to cut down time on editing. Professionals in several industries like law, healthcare, academia, marketing, engineering and journalism use it to provide instant feedback on the accuracy of writing in English.

                    Once you install the extension from Google Chrome, you can get corrections when you are drafting an email, using social media and other apps.

                    Grammarly is AI powered and it’s a wonderful tool to have to check spelling and grammar before a presentation.

                    Check out the software here!

                    Team Analytics

                    10. ActivTrak

                      ActivTrak is a business intelligence tool that allows you to access team behavior analytics. In other words, it is data-driven.

                      The pros include two-factor authentication with active directory integration. You can also automate your alerts and it has an intuitive interface with easy-to-use admin controls.

                      Furthermore, it comes with Google sign-in, iOS app, productivity track, and more. The bottomline is the product offers employee productivity metrics along with team behavior analytics.

                      Check out the software here!

                      The Bottom Line

                      Depending on the size, budget, resources, and immediate needs of your company, not all productivity software will exactly solve your problem. You will have to contact any of the providers above and probe extensively to find the right product that is made for your business.

                      More Productivity Tools

                      Featured photo credit: Domenico Loia via unsplash.com

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