USB stick can kill any device it touches

September 11, 2016

Sounds like something out of a spy movie but a USB stick that essentially fries unprotected computers, aptly named USB Kill 2.0, is now publicly available.

Last year, a Russian computer researcher created a USB thumb drive that draws power from a computer it's plugged into and then sends back an electric surge to destroy its physical components. At the time, the USB was only a proof-of-concept and there were no instructions on how to re-create it. Now, a manufacturer based in Hong Kong, USB Kill, has developed a mass produced USB thumb drive that performs the same function.

Don't confuse this thing with the USB stick that has your work files on it. 

"Our tests reveal that more than 95 per cent of all devices using USB ports will be damaged permanently or destroyed by a USB power surge attack," USB Kill said in a statement.

Despite publicising USB electrical surges as a possible attack vector more than a year ago, USB Kill says Apple is the only manufacturer that has since built in protections to its laptops.

"Despite adequate warning, and time to respond," the team writes on its website, "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."

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The USB Kill 2.0, which costs about $74.50, is designed to test surge protection of electronics and is marketed to penetration testers. According to the manufacturer, the USB Kill 2.0 is often paired with USB Killer Protection Shield that protects a machine during testing.

Here's how the USB Kill 2.0 works:

"When plugged into a device, the USB Killer rapidly charges its capacitors from the USB power lines. When the device is charged, -200VDC is discharged over the data lines of the host device. This charge/discharge cycle is repeated many times per second, until the USB Killer is removed."

Photo booths, copy machines, airline entertainment systems and ticket terminals often have exposed USB ports that are vulnerable to malicious attacks. The USB Kill 2.0 can be used by testers to check that a device is adequately protected against power surge attacks.

USB Kill 2.0 could also be used as a PC poison pill for those who want to prevent their sensitive data from getting into the 'wrong' hands. Think journalists, whistle-blowers, activists and cybercriminals.

 

read more at http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/technology-news/usb-stick-can-kill-any-device-it-touches-20160912-gre9ox

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