One more reason not to plug a USB into your computer
A Hong Kong firm has created a small device that can completely destroy a computer in just a few seconds by emitting a high electrical voltage through the machine’s USB port.
The USB Kill 2.0 device is based on a proof-of-concept prototype that was invented and showcased by Russian security researcher Dark Purple in 2015. It can transmit 200V DC over the data lines of the host machine, and when this process is repeated multiple times within a second, it can cause the hard drive’s controllers to be damaged to an extent that the data can never be retrieved again.
Apart from being in a desperate situation, or having a deep desire to ruin someone’s day, USBKill.com says that the tool does serve an important purpose – testing computer systems for surge protection.
The USB Kill 2.0 device retails online for €49.95 (£42), and there is an additional Test Shield for €13.95 that enables security researchers to test it out on computers without having to destroy one every time the test is run. There’s a discount if you buy both products together.
However, the product has proved so popular since it was launched in mid-August, that it is currently out of stock, and the firm expects to receive more on 14 September.
At the moment, only the latest line of Apple MacBooks are able to resist the power surge attack, because the hardware is designed to optically isolate the data lines on the USB ports. Therefore, all other computers in the world are at risk, because you can protect against malware, but you can’t stop electricity.