These days, USB storage devices are all around us and just about every person who owns a computer has a pen stick or portable hard drive. They are a useful medium to quickly transfer files from one PC to another instead of dragging big devices and cables everywhere. Sadly, along with the rise in portable storage, a great risk emerged because it didn’t take long for viruses to find a way to spread to other systems through USB by using the drives themselves to transport the infection.
Disabling Autorun in Windows is a step forward in stopping these devices trying to infect a machine as soon as it gets plugged in. Along with the security aspect, there are many times when you just don’t want anything on the USB drive to be deleted, moved or even executed. There are some sticks that come with a write lock but you pay a premium for the function. Using an SD card with a lock and an adapter is also an option which is what I use myself when needing to transfer files to another computer.
There is a small utility that can write protect any USB storage devices when plugged into your PC so there can’t be any unauthorised access. The program is called USB Disk Manager and along with write protecting your drive, has a few more features that may be useful if you want more protection from USB threats.
Other things it is able to do include blocking any executable file running itself from the USB device, meaning no virus that spreads itself this way can run. Another feature is being able to completely block read or write access on USB removable disks so any kind of file transfer is not possible.
The program is portable so simply download and extract it to your chosen location, and open the USB Disk Manager.exe (you may have to right click and ‘Run as Administrator’). If the program has not popped its window into view, click on the icon in the system tray.
The ‘Write Protect’ window allows for turning on the write protection so no files can be written to the drive from your system while this option is active. Useful if you don’t want any users to put anything on the device while it’s connected. As noted, reconnection of the device will be required for the option to take effect.
The ‘Execute Deny’ window will stop any programs on the device from executing themselves so a virus cannot run itself while this is active. This is quite useful if a drive is plugged into a machine and you cannot trust what the contents are. Especially handy in cases where youngsters are sharing data on their pen sticks with friends and are not quite as careful as they need to be. Take note, a reboot may be needed.
This option is an extension of write protect and will disable any access to the files on the device completely, so you cannot read the files from it, or write files to it. If you don’t want to allow anybody using the system to use USB storage devices at all, try this. Again, reconnect the device for this to be enabled.
The last window is for general settings and includes the option to turn off Autorun for USB disks which is a good idea anyway. Applying the setting for the current logged on user can be used if you are the Administrator of the machine and there are user accounts which you would like to use the USB Disk Manager options on.
The other option worth a mention is copying USB Disk Manager to storage devices automatically when they are inserted into your PC. The Manager and an Autorun will be copied to any USB disk you plug in and IF Autorun is enabled on any other PC you insert the USB device in to, the Manager will run allowing setup of the options on that system.
As this utility is actually a number of registry tweaks in an easy to use GUI, it does mean these options are machine specific. Enabling the write protect option for example, does not write protect the device but the current systems or users access to it. Take it to another PC where the tool hasn’t been used, and it will behave like a normal drive. Where is does help, is when the drive comes back from being connected to another PC and you can’t be completely sure it’s still 100% clean.
USB Disk Manager is compatible with XP, Vista and 7 32 & 64bit