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If you receive a strange USB stick in your mailbox, you should resist the urge to plug it into your computer.
Police in the Australian city of Pakenham, Victoria (about 50 miles from Melbourne) are warning residents about malware-ridden USB flash drives being left in area mailboxes. The USB drives are loaded with extremely malicious ransomware which could allow hackers to take control of your computer, and release it back to you at a steep price, according to an Associated Press report.
“The USB drives are believed to be extremely harmful and members of the public are urged to avoid plugging them into their computers or other devices,” Victoria police officials wrote in an announcement.
When the USB drives are plugged into a computer, the user is greeted with malware posing as a fake media streaming service. And at least two or three people have fallen for the hoax so far, according to CNET. This type of hacking is not a new concept. Reports of hackers dropping USB sticks in parking lots is widespread. And since people are actually pretty likely to get curious and plug them into their computer, USB-based attacks have a higher success rate than other hacking feats, according to the New York Times.
Beyond these recent attacks in Australia, several posts on Twitter show that people from other parts of the world have received strange USB flash drives in their mailboxes in the past few months, Motherboard reported. Thankfully, most people who received them tweeted that the drives went straight into the trash.
And before you think that you wouldn’t fall victim to this type of hacking, consider this: earlier this year, researchers from the University of Illinois conducted a study where they scattered USB flash drives across their campus. Among the 297 drives, nearly 98 percent of them were picked up or moved, and at least half were actually plugged into a computer, according to PC Mag.
It’s currently unknown who is responsible for these malicious flash drives. Victoria Police officials are asking anyone with information to contact them via Crime Stoppers, or by submitting a confidential tip online.