Users Really Do Plug in USB Drives They Find

Matthew Tischer, Zakir Durumeric, Sam Foster, Sunny Duan, Alec Mori, Elie Bursztein, Michael Bailey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


We investigate the anecdotal belief that end users will pick up and plug in USB flash drives they find by completing a controlled experiment in which we drop 297 flash drives on a large university campus. We find that the attack is effective with an estimated success rate of 45 - 98% and expeditious with the first drive connected in less than six minutes. We analyze the types of drives users connected and survey those users to understand their motivation and security profile. We find that a drive's appearance does not increase attack success. Instead, users connect the drive with the altruistic intention of finding the owner. These individuals are not technically incompetent, but are rather typical community members who appear to take more recreational risks then their peers. We conclude with lessons learned and discussion on how social engineering attacks - while less technical - continue to be an effective attack vector that our community has yet to successfully address.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2016 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, SP 2016
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781509008247
StatePublished - Aug 16 2016
Event2016 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, SP 2016 - San Jose, United States
Duration: May 23 2016May 25 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings - 2016 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, SP 2016


Other2016 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, SP 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Jose


  • USB
  • social engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Software


Dive into the research topics of 'Users Really Do Plug in USB Drives They Find'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this