PandaLabs released the findings of a 10,470 company, 20 countries survey this month. The survey found that in 2010, 25 percent of new worms were specifically designed to spread through USB storage devices. Not just USB flash drives, but any device that can be attached to a computer and used as external storage, including digital cameras, external hard drives, media players, and smartphones.
According to Technical Director of PandaLabs, Luis Corrons, "At present, much of the malware in circulation has been designed to distribute through these devices. Not only does it copy itself to these gadgets, but it also runs automatically when a USB device is connected to a computer, infecting the system practically transparently to the user. This has been the case with many infections we have seen this year, such as the distribution of the Mariposa and Vodafone botnets."
If the USB device contains an Autorun.ini file, Windows will take the actions specified in this file automatically. If the file has been modified, it will run the malicious content on the drive without the user’s knowledge. Email still remains the most common way of malware infection. This could change as the use of USB devices increases.
Intel Corp. announced this month that it will buy McAfee Inc. Intel is the world's largest chip manufacturer and is set to acquire one of the biggest cyber-protection companies for $7.7 billion. This deal could allow Intel to build McAfee's anti-virus technology directly into its chips. Intel said this would help shield computers, wireless devices and embedded systems in vehicles and ATMs from online crime.
Brian Berger, director of the Trusted Computing Group (TGC), states, "I think it's an endorsement of hardware and software working together to provide enhanced security in areas where it's difficult".
Not all experts agree. There are concerns because chip makers haven't traditionally been strong players in computer security. Mike Rothman, analyst and president of research firm Securosis LLC, said he doesn't see any enabling technology from McAfee that would help Intel move forward with its strategy of integrating security into its chips. If the deal goes through, Intel stated McAfee will "operate as a wholly owned subsidiary," with no job losses. McAfee, also based in Santa Clara, currently has about 6,100 employees. The company's management would stay in place.