USB thumb drives have long been a necessity in the hackers tool-kit, due to it’s compact and easy ability at delivering malware to unsuspecting individuals. Compromised flash drives can be extremely dangerous, in one instance, the U.S. and Israel reportedly infected Iran’s Natanz uranium facility with the stuxnet worm via a USB flash drive. And just in case you forgot, last year’s Bad USB exploit delivered a highly-functional attack platform that can’t be detected by a majority of today’s security systems.
Now, a researcher known as Dark Purple, has created a dangerous yet stealthy little USB device that can permanently destroy the computer’s internals, rendering the machine no more useful than a bulky paperweight. Within seconds of the thumb drive being plugged in, the small USB delivers a negative 220-volt electric surge into the USB port, which is enough power to practically fry any computer. A video of the deadly USB clearly demonstrates the shock is enough to permanently damage a Lenovo Thinkpad X60 laptop beyond repair.
In the video, Dark Purple shows the normal looking USB thumb drive. with no signs of anything malicious or harmful. But the USB Killer 2.0, as the creator describes it, takes a different approach, leading to total physical destruction of the PC hardware. According to The Daily Mail, an earlier and less powerful version of the device once existed, drawing power from the USB ports using a DC-to-DC converter until it accumulated negative 100 volts. The power was then injected into the computer at once. The process ran on loop until the hardware began to fail and rendered the machine completely inoperable. It’s presumed USB Killer v2.0 works similar.
“Do not worry about the laptop, the new ‘motherboard’ is on the way – he [the laptop]will live,” Dark Purple wrote in his blog post published last week. “Originally did not plan to restore it, the laptop was purchased specifically for the test, but now I miss him.”
Just from the video it’s not clear how much Dark Purple’s USB Killer 2.0 damages the computer hardware. Presumably the USB port is fried and it wouldn’t be surprising if circuits on the motherboard began to fail and were damaged beyond repair. The CPU and hard drive have a better chance at surviving the massive shock, although it’s not clear in the video demo or blog post.
USB Killer 2.0 is another scary reminder of just how dangerous USB thumb drives can be, especially those coming from unknown sources.