Dec 30, 2011

What do you do if you find a lost USB flash drive?

I ask this from the perspective of someone who has seen the effects of what others have done when they found a lost flash drive. At my company, I have had three different people who, over the past couple of months, found lost flash drives outside of the office, plugged them in and got a nice gift of malware. I'm sure that other employees have done the same thing without suffering ill effects, but of course I have no way of knowing how often this happens except when it causes problems. Have you ever faced this from the finder perspective, and if so what did you do?


Leave it where you found it. It can be a virus or something that can take all your information if you plug it into your computer!!!


In Australia, a magazine bought at auction a lot of lost flash drives that had been lost on railroad cars.  A surprisingly high 2/3 of them contained malware.  I've never personally found a flash drive "in the wild", which is to say misplaced outside of the office environment.  I must say that I find the question of whether some people "lose" them on purpose with the intention of installing malware on the finder's machine interesting.  It seems rather unlikely to me, given the cost of flash drives left laying about in the hopes of an unwary finder, and that finder not being someone with nothing to offer for the miscreant to gain.  As a rule, I don't go around opening unfamiliar files willy-nilly, and I think that should apply to DVDs, flash drives, SD cards, etc. found laying about.  

Well, if you have an idea who's it might be then it's a good idea to return it to them. If not, then return it to the lost and found or other related department if it's at a company. It's probably better not to look at it to see what's on it for the reason you mentioned, but also because you don't want to intrude on somebody else's privacy.

If worse comes to worse, and there's no way to find the owner then perhaps making sure it's destroyed might be the best course of action. The owner won't get the data back, but nobody else will be able to access it either and thus their privacy and security will be protected.

It's a tough call all around though.
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