People will pick up and use almost 50% of random discarded USB drives

Discussion in 'Computer Science & Culture' started by Plazma Inferno!, Apr 8, 2016.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

    What you do when you see a random USB drive just lying on the ground? Do you pick it up? Take a look at the data you find on it, and maybe try to return it to its owner? Or simply leave it be?

    A team from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign dropped 297 USB drives around the uni grounds, leaving them in places like parking lots, hallways, classrooms, libraries, and cafeterias. They found that almost half of the data sticks ended up being used in a computer, and almost all of them (98 percent) were picked up and removed from where they were originally dropped.
    To track what people did with the USB sticks when they found them, the researchers put HTML documents on the drives, masquerading as files called "documents", "math notes", and "winter break pictures". When somebody discovered these files on the drive and tried to open them with an internet-connected computer, the researchers were notified.
    Amazingly, despite the potential risks of executing these random files, people did so with 45 percent of the discarded USB drives.
    When people opened the HTML files on the drive, they were informed about the experiment and invited to complete an anonymous survey to provide some information about themselves and explain what had motivated them to pick up and use the drive in the first place.
    Less than half of the 135 users at this point opted to continue the experiment, but 43 percent did provide feedback. Most of the respondents (68 percent) said they wanted to return the drive to its owner, while 18 percent acknowledged they were merely curious about the contents. Two people admitted they just personally needed a USB drive!
    Sylvester likes this.
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  3. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    I've never found one but I've lost a few. If I was somewhere like a library, I'd turn it in like any lost-and-found item. Otherwise, I'd try it out. I'm not too worried about any risks.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2016
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  5. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Just exploit people's curiosity: Heck of an ingenious way for hackers, botnet enterprises, and malware distributors to gain access. If 45 percent are willing to do that, then the returns might be more than sufficient to make up for the loss of hundreds or thousands of flash drives (especially if they were only cheap 2 or 4 GB variety, purchased bulk discount). In case the parasites haven't long since realized this on their own (which they very much probably have[*]), thanks for the public exposure, Research Team!

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    [*] Back in the early, naive former decade, even the military got infiltrated by somebody simply placing a thumb drive with a proper-sounding sticker label on a desk beside a networked computer.
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  7. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    I'd no sooner put a discarded drive in my pc than put a used needle in my body. It ain't happening. If I found a discarded drive I'd either, leave it, turn it into authorities (e.g. a police department) or throw it away.
  8. PaulJames Banned Banned

    Wow, great experiment!
  9. Bowser Namaste Valued Senior Member

    Having fought with contagions, I don't believe I would risk putting one in my system. Depending on the circumstances, I would either give it to a service desk, leave it where I found it, or discard the thing.
  10. Sylvester Registered Senior Member

    I would use it for sure. I can run low-level tools off of a floppy disk of i am worried, i would try to read all the data first, but only form a command line. <g> I would clean it with rubbing alcohol and pick it up with my shirt or a piece of paper.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2016
  11. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    Rubbing alcohol won't do anything, try betadine.

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