Instant death from killer USB
Russian hackers have created a USB stick that can instantly destroy any machine it is plugged into. Created by a Russian security researcher known as ‘Dark Purple’ the device can permanently destroy much of a computer’s innards within seconds of being plugged in by delivering a negative 220-volt electric surge into the USB port. The stick looks normal, and there are no outward signs it’s malicious but it is deadly. Where normal USB drive is powered by 5V, the killer USB drive has “an inverting DC/DC converter [which] runs and charges capacitors to -110V.” When it has reached -110V, a field transistor within the device turns on and then feeds -110V back into the computer. When the voltage on [the] capacitors increases to -7V, the transistor closes and the DC/DC starts. The result is a loop, which runs until, in Dark Purple’s own words, “everything possible is broken.”
Killer USB is not at all a new concept; USB drives are used as a valid weapon to compromise the system in air-gapped networks.
The Stuxnet worm that targets industrial control systems that are used to monitor and control large scale industrial facilities like power plants, dams, waste processing systems and similar operations is a good example. The virus ravaged Iran’s Natanzy nuclear facility and was bought into the secure area after being loaded onto an unsuspecting worker’s thumb drive. The cyber attack was reportedly a collaboration between the USA and Israel and is believed to have destroyed around a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges by causing them to spin out of control.
It might seem impossible that such a killer device would every cross your desk, but when you buy such items as USBs online from overseas sources, there is always the risk no matter how small you think that might be. You may not be a nuclear power station but relatively speaking, if you lose your computer along with all your important files and data stored in it, the outcome may be just as destructive.