“Put that thing down, son, you don’t know where it’s been”, my Mom used to say. But she wasn’t talking about this innocuous-looking that can kill your computer, laptop, your big screen TV or even your copier. Dubbed the USB killer, this pen drive will fry your internal organs (not yours, your gadget’s) in a matter of seconds. The worst part? It retails for about $56!
The USB Killer was designed, built and marketed by a team of hardware security techies in Hong Kong, and was intended to show hardware vulnerability that exists with most devices. They exposed this vulnerability over a year ago but hardware manufacturers failed to take corrective action to help protect their customers’ devices.
The team at USB Killer says this: “Despite adequate warning, and time to respond, the majority of consumer-level hardware manufacturers choose not to protect their customer’s devices. We are disheartened by this lack of respect for customers.”
Well, who wouldn’t? If I knew that my devices could be attacked this way, as a manufacturer I would have – or should have – done something to protect them. But the makers of the USB Killer say that Apple is the only company that seems to have protected its products from this type of attack.
What Does the USB Killer Do?
When you plug this USB stick into your PC, laptop, TV or any other piece of hardware that has a USB port, it first starts to drain out all the power. Once it has sucked enough power from the device, it then sends the power back to the device in one short surge that fries your hardware. Or in the USB Killer team’s words, “instantly and permanently disables unprotected hardware.”
So why create a product that can do this, and then sell it on the market? Are they trying to create a mass event so that manufacturers will finally wake up to the very real threat? No such luck! The USB Killer is being marketed as a testing tool for security experts so they can develop a protective shield that will prevent the product from doing this.
They’re very clear in their warning to buyers, and say that anyone not in the security profession should only “kill their own devices,” and that victims of any malicious attack using their product should “pursuing the individual responsible, or reporting the act to the appropriate authorities.”
Do you have friends that are itching to play an expensive prank on your brand new big screen TV? Are you aware of any person or persons that might intend your Nintendo any harm? If that is indeed the case, you should be very careful where you plug that USB you found “conveniently” lying around the house.
Personally, I learned two things from this story: never trust a friend who says “here, use this one”, and only fry your own devices.
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