Flash drives are virus magnets. This is a generally accepted truth, but today I learned it firsthand.
As you may recall from my previous post on copying files to flash drives, my wife needed to take a PowerPoint presentation with her to school. The drive was malware-free when it left here--but it came home with a virus!
I found this out when I popped the drive into my PC--and Microsoft Security Essentials immediately detected (and removed, thankfully) an extremely dangerous worm. No doubt it had landed there when the missus plugged the drive into one of the school machines.
This was a catastrophe barely averted. This particular worm propagates over network connections, so it could have spread very quickly to every system in my house. That's why it's crucial to have reliable anti-virus software installed on all your PCs.
Okay, but how do you protect your flash drive when it's "out and about"? How can you keep it from getting infected in the first place--or at least remove any sneakyware before it comes home with you?
My tool of choice: SUPERAntiSpyware Portable Scanner. The program requires no installation; you just copy it to your flash drive (see the aforementioned post if you don't know how to do that), then run it whenever you want to check for and remove infections.
You should also consider running Panda USB Vaccine, which disables a flash drive's Autorun.inf file--a common carrier for malware (including the one that hit me today). Doing so will prevent the drive's Autorun box from appearing when you plug it into your PC, but that's no biggie--you just have to open the drive manually.