A Russian security researcher known as “Dark Purple” has created a USB stick that contains an unusual payload.
It doesn’t install malware or exploit a zero-day vulnerability. Instead, the customised USB stick sends 220 Volts (technically minus 220 Volts) through the signal lines of the USB interface, frying the hardware.
Dark Purple claims in a Russian-language blog post that the attack is not just limited to computers, but can used to incapacitate almost any equipment equipped with a USB drive.
Want to see the attack in action? Of course you do.
Here is Dark Purple’s video, where he demonstrates how USB Killer v2.0 bricking a Lenovo Thinkpad X60 laptop:
Dark Purple says that you shouldn’t worry too much about his broken laptop. He claims that “he will live” and a new motherboard is on the way. He thinks it is “extremely unlikely” that the hard disk was damaged, and so it should still be possible to access the data stored on the drive.
That’s good news, of course, as the data you store on your computer’s hard drive is probably more valuable to you or your business than the hardware itself.
It may also mean that computer criminals, political activists, journalists and whistleblowers, concerned that they might be at risk of having their computers seized, won’t attempt to use this particular technique to keep their data out of other parties’ hands.
So, there you have it. USB Killer v2.0. Yet another reason not to plug a USB stick of unknown origin into one of your computers.