On August 16, when a small Hong Kong-based software company announced the release of a USB stick device that can instantaneously destroy a computer, few users paid attention. When word of the USB Kill 2.0 device began appearing on Facebook newsfeeds on September 9, that all changed. Today, a lot of people who work with computers are wondering about the little gadget that can ravage the central processor and every other component inside a PC, laptop, or other USB-enabled device.
A bonus story for today… the USB Killer v2.0https://t.co/Xp8poRBd7x
— PhishTrain (@PhishTrain) September 9, 2016
Who makes USB Kill and why
USBKILL manufactures the kill stick device as part of a penetration testing kit that’s used to determine whether or not a particular computer is vulnerable to power surges or electrical attack. When used along with a protective test shield, the high voltage USB kill device can be utilized to inspect computers, photo booths, ticket terminals, aircraft entertainment systems and any other computerized machine or device with an exposed universal serial bus port, according to the USBKILL website. When used alone, the USB killer delivers a series of powerful voltage jolts that effectively destroy the delicate internal workings of a computer with lightning quick speed.
The company that manufactures and sells USB Killer explains that when the computer-killing flash drive is inserted into a bus port without a test shield, it charges its capacitors with electricity then delivers a whopping 200 volts of direct current into the machine via data lines. The result is total devastation of the host device. This can be useful if you need to totally plunder a computer prior to disposal. But if someone with mischief on their mind inserts one of these bad boys into your laptop when your back is turned, you could lose your work, pictures, files, and every other thing that you keep in your computer. In other words, your computer will be toast, and the ruination is irreversible.
At the time of this writing, the USB Killer thumb drive costs around $56 or €49.95. The USB Killer Protection Shield, which allows computer techs to test for an attack without frying hardware, costs an additional $16 or €13.95. USBKILL offers a 50 percent discount and free shipping when both devices are purchased together.
The USB Killer is intended as a pen-testing adjunct and should never be used for any so-called “black hat” purposes, says the USBKILL company. The fact remains, however, that the devices are selling as fast as they can be made and are undoubtedly getting into the hands of hackers and other technological ne’er-do-wells.
Black Hat vs. White Hat USB technology
Black hat tech has been around nearly as long as computers themselves. The name derives from old cowboy movies that featured good guys in white hats while the bad guys wore black-colored headgear. The term “hack” comes to us from the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT in the 1960s. Originally coined to describe the reworking of model trains, hacking now generally refers to computers and the modification thereof.
The term “black hat” may be used in conjunction with hacking, but not all hackers wear black hats. A hacker can be anyone who uses savvy skills to access and manipulate computer data. White hat hacking is used to recover lost data and ramp up computer security. Black hat ops, like the USB Killer, are the kind of stuff you need to worry about.
How to protect your computer from USB destruction
Unlike hacking that can be managed from a remote location, the USB Kill device requires actual physical contact with a computer. As long as nobody has access to the exterior ports of your computer, nobody can sizzle your CPU and thereby destroy your device with a kill stick.
Disabling the autorun feature of your USB ports can protect your machine from viruses contained on flash drives, but may not prevent destruction via USB Kill. Your best bet is to never leave your laptop or other device unattended.
— ZDNet (@ZDNet) September 8, 2016
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