Can a Virus Be Transferred to External Drives?

By M.L. Browne

Viruses can infect external drives
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Malware creators can use all types of removable drives as tools to assist in infecting your computer. According to Trend Micro, external drives, whether solid state (flash, pen or thumb) or mechanical (hard disk), are highly common sources for computer virus infection and its spread.

Primary Causes for Viruses

Email attachments carry viruses
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A report in LabMice, a subsidiary division of TechTarget, says that social engineering techniques (email, chat, peer-to-peer networking) that involve saving files on external drives are responsible for the spread of nearly all new viruses.

Drive Autorun Prevention

Prevent virus transfers
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You can set the external drive root folder attributes so that such files cannot transfer to the drive at all. A very common technique malware developers use for infecting external drives is to write an Autorun.inf file that executes malware instructions for delivering the payload the next time you plug the drive into any computer.

Drive Autoplay Prevention

Prevent autoplay
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You can set your operating system so that it does not automatically play removable devices. In Windows operating systems, you can also prevent autoplay if you hold down the Shift key for several seconds when you plug in the external drive.

Preventing Virus Infestation

Use effective antivirus programs
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Viruses can transfer easily to and from the boot drives of any computer that does not have active antivirus scanning enabled. Do not plug an external drive into a computer that does not have an up to date antivirus program running.

Detecting Virus Persistency

Get expert help if necessary
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Some viruses that can infect external drives are persistent, in that they resist removal and cleanup by restoring themselves automatically if deleted or rendering the removable drive completely unusable. In such cases, the best course of action is always to contact professional data recovery services who can recover your data.