A simple USB stick, created by a Russian security researcher known as ‘Dark Purple’ can instantly fry any machine it plugs into, including your laptop or TV.
In the short video posted by the hackers, the USB is shown in action – all it takes is plugging it into the hacker’s IBM laptop, and it completely kills the machine within seconds.
After the laptop turns off, the demonstrator in the video tries repeatedly to turn it back on but it seems that the USB has blown its circuitry in the process.
The USB destroys laptops by sending 220 volts through the signal lines of the USB interface, rendering anything it is plugging into useless.
Russian entrepreneurs are now crowdfunding production of a similar product, saying it is a way to “stop data theft”.
The sellers are offering the “USB Killer” for $99 on Indiegogo, calling it “your last line of defense against unauthorised data access”.
In a somewhat low-budget promotional video, gangsters that try to access data using the USB stick are instead thwarted by the wiley victim. They say they need $10,000 to fund production. The crowdfunding project does not appear to have any immediate connection with the Dark Purple project, which was unveiled in October.
Dark Purple claimed in a Russian-language blog post that the attack is not just limited to computers, but can used to incapacitate almost anything equipped with a USB drive.
The examples given were smartphones that support USB mode, TVs, routers, modems, etc.
His goal, he writes, is to test prototypes of “devices that perform only one function – the destruction of computers.”
Although the laptop looks completely dead after the USB is done with it, Dark Purple claims that it will be restored once the motherboard has been replaced. “It is extremely unlikely that the hard disk or the information on it was damaged,” he wrote.
This is good news as it means hackers who get their hands on the USB won’t be able to wipe the data stored on your computer’s hard drive – which is is probably more valuable to you or your business than the computer itself.
In the past, hackers have used software – lines of code that hide in a webpage or can be transmitted via text message – to wipe or crash phones.
One security researcher warned, “Yet another reason not to plug a USB stick of unknown origin into one of your computer.
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