Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports make it easy to connect peripherals to a computer. Maybe you want to connect a mouse to your computer, or perhaps you want to connect an external storage drive to it. Regardless, most peripherals support a USB connection. You can connect them using either a USB wire or a wireless USB dongle. While most computers support USB-connected peripherals, though, they are often vulnerable to cyber threats.

USB Cyber Threats: What You Should Know

USB cyber threats are defined by their use of a USB port. They take advantage of a USB port on a computer to carry out their malicious operations. Some of them can cause a loss of data. Other USB cyber threats may create backdoors for hackers. Regardless, they all leverage the use of a USB port.

Unlike most cyber threats, USB cyber threats are hardware based. They require the use of hardware. USB cyber threats specifically use USB-connected hardware, such as a dongle or flash drive. When inserted into a computer, they’ll pave the way for a cyber attack. Some types of malicious USB-connected hardware will execute immediately upon being inserted. Alternatively, it may require additional steps, such as opening and executing a program, after being inserted into the computer.

Disable Unused USB Ports

To protect against USB cyber threats, you should consider disabling your computer’s unused USB ports. If a port isn’t currently being used — and you don’t intend to use it in the near future — you can disable it. Disabling the USB port will render it unusable. You’ll still be able to insert dongles and other USB-connected hardware into the port, but the hardware won’t work. Your computer won’t read or respond to the hardware inserted into a disabled USB port.

There are several ways to disable unused USB ports. If your computer runs Windows, you can disable unused USB ports in the Device Manager as well as the registry editor.

Monitor USB-Connected Hardware

In addition to disabling unused USB ports, monitoring USB-connected hardware can minimize the risk of USB cyber threats. You probably won’t be able to disable all of your computer’s USB ports — at least not without disabling peripheral features. By monitoring your computer’s USB-connected hardware, though, you’ll know exactly what’s connected to it via its open USB ports.

The easiest way to monitor USB-connected hardware is to use USBView. It’s a free app that’s available for Windows. You can learn more about USBView and how it works by clicking here.