Smokin’ deal: cheap e-cigs can infect computers when connected through USB

The jury is still out on the validity of this story but it’s worth sharing even if just for a laugh. An nondescript company executive’s computer was recently  attacked by malware after charging his e-cigarette using the USB connector, as shared on Yahoo today. IT personnel deduced that when the executive connected the charger to his computer, the  e-cig had access to the server and immediately infected the system, despite anti-virus and other security software. We recently posted about USB drives being used for malicious behavior so we feel the latest e-cig story can in fact be true. Regardless if it is or not, we encourage computer users to be careful about what they connect electronically or everything could easily go up in smoke.

BadUSB: the technology world’s newest incurable, unpredictable plague

Using a USB is no longer one of the safest ways to transfer files between computers. Why? Because two researchers (Karsten Noll and Jakob Lell of SRLabs) have discovered a way to reprogram the device’s firmware to attack the computer to which it is attached. As if this weren’t bad enough, the reverse engineered USB can affect the computer in such way that any USB device that is plugged into it will be corrupted as well. Think that connecting an anti-virus device will solve the problem? Think again. The infected computer will self-replicate the malware onto the newly attached device’s controller to make it a BadUSB as well.

Because this new attack isn’t a normal virus, security measures like McAfee or Norton will not stop the attack. These systems scan files and program codes to identify malicious behavior and attributes. This BadUSB as the creators have dubbed it is unique because it is run through the controller of the USB, not in the memory. Thus, the connected computer will not be able to recognize the malware. The device identifies itself as a USB to the computer once connected but is able to redefine itself as another device such as a keyboard. This may not seem useful at first but once defined as a keyboard, the malware can then enter strokes that command the computer to do tasks such as download Trojans or log into accounts, giving the USB needed usernames and passwords.

Unfortunately once a computer has been infected, there is nothing even the savviest tech can do to remove the malware. Noll explained that the only valid defense for this breach is for the device creators to “make it so the firmware can’t be reprogrammed.” Even an unopened USB drive fresh from the store can already have been infected at the factory so planning to replace all old devices with new ones doesn’t ensure security. Until the way USB controllers are made and programmed differently at production, this new threat is a reality that we should all be on the lookout for.


Google Chrome asking you to update? It’s a trap!

You’re reading through your email and a pop-up appears on your screen stating that your Google Chrome or Video Player is out of date. Rest assured; it is fake. Chrome is automatically updated meaning you do not have to do so manually. No matter how authentic the pop-up may appear, Chrome will never ask you to click and update. Ever. This pop-up was designed to do one thing and one thing only: get you to click UPDATE. The moment you do you will be infected with a horde of malware and virus programs because your current antivirus program(s) will be disabled. Your web browsers will be cluttered with toolbars and add-ons. Searches will be hijacked to custom sites delivering even more malware and garbage. The moral of the story here is don’t click UPDATE.

So what do you do if you see this on your computer? Simply close your browser and reopen it. If these pop-ups continue, do your best to avoid those sites. Still happening even after that? Well then it’s too late; you have picked up a bug which is guaranteed if you have already clicked on the link. Shut down the machine and bring it into either of our shops in Tempe or Gilbert. We can remove all of the junk that has been loaded onto the system and get you back into the clear.

No matter how authentic the update request may look, Google Chrome will never ask you to update

No matter how authentic the update request may look, Google Chrome will never ask you to update