Does leaving my external hard drive connected put its contents at risk from malware?
I have an external drive that I use to backup my data, and it is permanently connected to a USB port. Is there a significant risk that a virus could enter my system destroying all my data including
the data on the external drive?
I won't call it significant, but yes, there is a risk.
And what you describe isn't even the biggest risk.
That being said, I'll put it this way: when coupled with good behaviour and good tools, I leave my external hard drives plugged in all the time as well.
I'll tell you why.
First, yes, it's quite possible that there are viruses out there that will simply seek out and destroy data on every device connected to your computer, including external hard drives and perhaps even remote network connections.
"So in my opinion you're actually more at risk that your external hard drive becomes infected as a carrier than you are for any data loss."
But those types of incredibly destructive viruses are pretty rare these days. I actually wouldn't expect to come across one that simply destroys everything.
Viruses are more ... purposeful ... these days.
They typically want to do two things:
- send spam, or steal data and information
- copy themselves to more systems
Destroying everything doesn't accomplish the first goal - in fact it's somewhat counterproductive.