Virus and malware creators are always thinking of different ways to infect computers and spread viruses once infected. The popularity and ease of use of USB memory sticks makes them a prone target to spreading viruses. Memory sticks can be easily infected by the simple act of inserting the stick in to an infected machine. Viruses can take advantage of a built in windows feature known as auto-run to pass the malware or virus on to the memory stick then use this same method to pass it on when inserted in to any computer its used in.
How do I clean an infected USB stick?
Infected memory sticks can be cleaned with a good up-to-date antivirus package; you can use the antivirus package to scan the memory stick for infections. If you don’t have any data that you wish to keep on the memory stick the easiest thing to do would be to format the memory stick. If you go in to My Computer and then right click on the memory stick and click format.
How do I help prevent becoming infected?
Some memory sticks (particularly the older ones) come with a switch where you can make your memory stick read-only meaning that no data can be written to the stick. If you have this feature you can switch this on when you don’t need to save anything to the stick.
These types of infections take advantage of the auto-run feature that’s built in to Windows. You can disable the auto-run feature to help prevent these types of viruses spreading to your computer if your memory stick does become infected. In this article by Microsoft they provide a downloadable tool to disable the auto-run feature for you: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/967715/
The last thing that you can do (and the most important one) is to keep your computer up-to-date with the latest Windows Updates. This not only helps protect you from this type of virus but also helps protect you from many other security risks.