All your base are belong to us

Excited news stories this morning about how your computer is vulnerable to attack from a phone plugged into your USB port made me chuckle. This “novel hack” involves making an Android phone mimic a USB keyboard in order to send keystrokes to the computer. Cool, but why wouldn’t a hacker just use a USB keyboard in the first place?

This is a good example of the over-hyped threats that often generate headlines. Sure, it’s true that allowing potentially compromised USB devices to be plugged into your computer could be harmful, but opening your web browser is much more likely to result in damage. The only thing remotely novel about this “attack” is the notion that your own phone could be the source. That’s interesting, but hardly worthy of the breathless coverage it’s getting.

The bottom line is that most malicious attacks are the result of you doing something you know you shouldn’t do, such as opening an email attachment or blithely running downloaded programs without regard to their trustworthiness. Very few malicious attacks occur without your explicit permission.

This post reminds me of the one time my computer was infected with a virus. It arrived on a floppy disk that I received from, of all places, my local health department. I guess smart phones are the new floppy disk.

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