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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 September 11, 2019

8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

Computers and cell phones have become an integrated tool in our professional and personal lives that the original methods of using pen and paper may not be so common anymore.

Although our old-school methods of note taking may not have entirely left us, technology is advancing with no intention of slowing down; iPads are moving into service industries, video calls are taking the place of in-person interviews, and store receipts are making its way into our email inbox – all of which requires the skill of typing.

Learning a new skill doesn’t have to be boring and never had to be. Thankfully, there are effective games and apps that can help you learn to type fast with swift precision and accuracy.

Why Typing Fast Matters?

Learning how to type fast is a game changer. In fact, you can save 21 days per year by typing fast!

Although shaving several minutes from curating a long email or texting paragraphs in a text message may not seem to be of great significance, the minutes soon do eventually add up and the long list of tasks then evolve into frustration. By the end of the day, time is being wasted, and the work pile is stacked high over your head.

Why not alleviate some of those frustrations through practice and dedicating your spare time to build muscle memory?

Learning a simple skillset like speed typing can drastically improve other essential areas in life including time-management and prioritization. Not only does it help you efficiently complete tasks at work and in your personal life, but it also boosts your productivity.

8 Most Effective Typing Games and Apps

Everyone learns at different speeds and uses various methods. While some work better under pressure and tight deadlines, others thrive when given ample amounts of time to learn and soak in the knowledge that is being provided. Despite the number of resources that are available in the hollow corners of the internet, it’s all about finding one source that helps you learn at your fullest potential.

Whether you’re a keyboard ninja or not, here are some effective typing games and apps that allow you to test your speed, accuracy, and maybe shoot some spaceships along the way.

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For Beginners

1. Speed Typing Online

    What’s more fun than to type to the story of Alice in Wonderland or the lyrics to “Hey Jude”? Speed Typing Online is an online typing game that allows you to dive into the creative and familiar world of famous books, fables, songs, and even hone your skills in data entry.

    The bright blue frame holds the text, which then turns green after punching in the accurate keystrokes. After the end of the personal timer, a statistics page appears to show you your typed words per minute, accuracy, correct and incorrect entries, and error rate.

    2. Typing Trainer

      Typing Trainer

      is another online platform suited for beginner typists looking for step-by-step lessons. Learning the keys on a keyboard can confusing especially for those who aren’t as familiar or getting adjusted to typing on a computer keyboard.

      Typing Trainer has a collection of step-by-step tutorials that covers everything from sentence drills, introduction to new keys as the lessons progress, and skills test. The Typing Trainer specifically highlights unique features in each lesson including a warm-up section where the user begin to build muscle memory and learn to type without looking at the keyboard.

      The website is also programed to identify difficulties the user is facing when typing specific words or sentences.

      3. TapTyping – Typing Trainer

        There is the feeling of physically typing on a keyboard and then there’s the feeling of typing on a touch screen mobile device.

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        Since the use of cell phones has become closely integrated into our everyday lives, learning to type on a mobile is much of a skillset as it is to type on a computer. The mobile typing app, TapTyping – Typing Trainer, allows users to practice while on-the-go making it perfect for commuters who want to practice typing during their down time.

        The app allows you to challenge other typists around the world with TapTyping’s global leaderboard and test your skills by taking advanced lessons. There’s always room for improvement and with the app, you’ll be able to find your mistakes by watching a heat map of your finger strokes.

        For professional writers and programmers

        4. The Most Dangerous Writing App

          Suitable for writers facing a creative block or on a tight-deadline, the Most Dangerous Writing App is a website that forces your fingers to type as quickly as your ideas.

          If you stop longer than 5 seconds, everything you had written will slowly disappear from the screen.

          Sessions are timed from 3 minutes to 20 minutes, or can go from 75 to 1667 words. This online app is perfect to brain dump ideas, write a chapter of a manuscript you’ve been stuck on, or help with procrastination.

          If you’re up to the challenge, try the hardcore mode – an alternative option where a single letter appears on the screen at a time. This level prevents you from seeing the entire word, sentences, or even correct any spelling or grammatical mistakes until the timer is complete.

          If you’re wondering, copying and pasting is not an option until each the end of each session.

          5. The Typing Cat

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            Looking to upgrade your typing skills? Also working as a personal tutor, the Typing Cat has a list of regular typing courses with the option to try other lessons with more complexity such as HTML. Learning to type code is a another valulable skillset worth adding.

            Even with disregarded interest in the coding world, using the code course enhances your typing skills and allows your fingers to familiarize itself with uncommon word combinations and placement of punctuations on a keyboard.

            The coding course can be difficult even for typing whizzes, but it’s all a part of muscle memory. According Psychology Today,[1] only a handful of people actually learn how to type by looking at an actual keyboard, while a majority of the population locate specific keys intuitively through muscle memory.

            Available courses include EcmaScript 6, HTML 5, and CSS 3.

            Fun typing games

            6. ZType — Space Invaders Meet Webster

              Remember playing the iconic 70’s game that allowed you to shoot tiny purple and green aliens from one end of the screen to the other with a two-bullet laser? It’s hard to believe that Space Invaders just turned 40 , but you can still get the same adrenaline rush with ZType, a typing game with the same shooting concept.

              Ztype works in waves – stages that must be cleared but instead of aliens, you must type out the words before the missiles destroy your ship at the bottom of the screen. Every so often, longer and mor complex words would appear and if the words are not typed in the allotted time, a series of letters will disperse like missles.

              The game is quick on the fingers and will still have your heart pumping until the very end.

              7. Epistory – Typing Chronicles

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                Although this game does cost money to purchase, it is worth the investment if you’re looking for a refreshing and alternative mode to learning how to type fast.

                Epistory – Typing Chronicles is a role-playing action and adventure game of a young girl riding a fox in a magical and fictional realm; together they combat enemies in the shapes and forms of words.

                Once you’re starterted, you almost forget you’re playing a typing game. The paper craft art aesthetics of the game has you captivated by the vibrant colors and character’s storyline, while having you build your typing skills.

                8. Daily Quote Typing

                  Need some inspiration? Say no more.

                  Daily Quote Typing is one of many gammes available on Wordgames.com – a website that offers a variety of typing games ranging from different levels based on your experience.

                  With Daily Quote Typing, users are able to type out inspirational quotes by famous leaders, inventors, and innovators such as Mark Twain and Albert Einstein.

                  Bottom Line

                  At the end of the day, discipline and patience is what teaches to type faster. It comes down to making that commitment to improving not only your typing abilities, but in a lifelong skill that benefits other areas in life.

                  By practicing daily and using effective games and apps, it’s only a matter of time before keystrokes will become second nature and your brain will adapt to learning other skills faster.

                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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