The curious case of a hairy flash drive

Where I come from, using flash drives to copy s from computer to computer is a fairly common activity. The documents copied vary in size from as small as few hundred kilobytes of microsoft word documents to a 700mb movie. This common form of file transfer comes with two notorious challenges.

The corrupt document

Every once in a while or approximately 1 in 10 flash drives / memory cards, documents copied onto a flash drive no longer retains their form. In order words, they are corrupt and cannot be read easily by microsoft word or vlc without a special voodoo operation. Once a flash drive starts to exhibit this behavior, the owner cries for about a day or two and keep the flash drive at the bottom of his bag hoping that one day, the old documents would be retrieved by a magician.

The curiously missing document

This one is even more popular. I would approximate its occurrence to be at 3 in every 10 flash drives that are used on private windows PC and 8 in every 10 used on public windows PCs. Surprisingly, these files are accessible on Mac and Linux. What causes this is a tiny malicious process that hides all folders in the flash drive and creates a executable clone with the same image as a windows folder. This malicious program does this to trick other flash drive users into installing itself and thus propagating its life cycle.

This scourge can be prevented by not opening flash drives directly. If you are a victim, you can either install a recent antivirus or run command task manager, locate the malicious program and terminate it. Stop from starting either as a service or at boot time. Finally, clean up old flashes by deleting the windows folder looking executables and run attrib *.* /d /u -h -r -s in an elevated command prompt window.

Glossary

a special voodoo operation: Refers to a theory in my head that the document can still be recovered by special computer nerds, if not, how come we see people in movies recover memory files from corrupt or broken or exploded hard drives.

Reason for writing this post: It just popped up in my head and it seems like an interesting topic to write on.

Tomiwa Ijaware

Not much is known about Tomiwa, however, information indicate that he is a software engineer that leans on the collective wisdom of open source giants. At night, he studies machine learning.

Lagos, Nigeria http://tomiwa.xyz

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