In another example of why trusting computer hardware willy-nilly is a Thing You Should Not Do, a Russian researcher by the name of Dark Purple has devised a devious and dastardly doodad that we all may have to worry about in future.
Enter the “USB Killer 2.0”: an innocuous looking little flash drive, indistinguishable from the one you normally keep Wednesday’s essay and your erotic Twilight fan-fiction on, that is capable of irreparably cooking your computer’s insides in five seconds flat.
Scary stuff. Fortunately, the researcher did not explain how to make the ghastly gadget on the blog post in which he revealed it (which you can read here, если вы говорите русский), so the chances of your ex messing up your day with it are fairly low.
In fact, Dark Purple has revealed relatively little about the device – we’re not even sure what kind of damage it does, although those who know say that the USB port you stuck it into would be fried, and it’s likely the motherboard (sort of a computer’s equivalent to a backbone) would be damaged as well. At any rate, you certainly wouldn’t be able to get it fixed – or recover any data from it – without the help of someone with some fair computer knowledge and tools.
USB sticks delivering bad news is nothing new – in fact, the USA and Israel used an infected USB to cyber-attack an Iranian uranium enrichment facility a couple years ago – but such previous examples only created software infections and problems. This route of physically destroying computer hardware is new.
Nobody (aside from Dark Purple) is entirely sure how the stick works, but USB Killer 1.0 was uncomplicated. Long story short, it works kinda like that thing on Spirited Away – the stick devours electricity like nobody’s business, demanding more and more high levels of juice from the computer it’s connected to on an infinite loop.
No computer can cope with that kind of demand: the USB port (and anything it’s connected to, i.e. motherboard) will be overloaded and fried as far too much electricity flows through it. That was USB Killer 1.0 – it’s likely today’s 2.0 works in a similar way, although details are sketchy.
One thing’s for sure: the stakes are high with a device like this, and should they ever end up in general circulation on the black market (which is entirely feasible: the parts are fairly cheap) there will be trouble.
Moral of the story: treat your computer with the same caution as a Timepiece night’s aftermath, by making sure you’re safe where inserting sticks into slots is concerned.