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Hardware IT Technology

That Laptop-Bricking USB Stick Just Got Even More Dangerous (zdnet.com) 93

From a report on ZDNet: Remember that USB stick that would destroy almost anything in its path, from laptops, photo booths, kiosks, to even cars? The makers of the USB Kill stick have created a more powerful version with a higher voltage and amp output, and a three-times faster pulse rate of up to 12 times a second. And, with microUSB, USB-C, and Lightning adapters, the USB Kill claims to be able to kill iPhones, iPads, and other devices, like phones, tablets, and digital cameras. The company says it's "designed to test the surge protection circuitry of electronics to their limits." In other words, its purpose is destroying expensive kit.
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That Laptop-Bricking USB Stick Just Got Even More Dangerous

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  • not nearly as effective as an etherkiller, that thing can start actual fires.
    • Re:etherkiller (Score:5, Informative)

      by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @06:13PM (#54054109) Homepage

      You are missing the point.

      Etherkillers (and their ilk) have three prong plugs that you have to plug into an outlet with surge protection in addition to the port plugging into the computer.

      As such, it is clearly and obviously a device designed to destroy computers, and can not be mistaken for a run of the mill, safe thing to plug into your computer.

      No one - not event he stupidest cop that confiscates your device is going to make the mistake of destroying their own computer using it.

      The USB killer is in a class by itself - it can easily be used as protection against someone else viewing your data.

      The real advantage of such a device is combining it with a real, hidden USB drive, that destroy's the real data on the real memory chip when you use the obvious USB port, rather than the hidden one. Perfect to store stuff you don't want the enemy to see.

      • Mate, this bird wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through it! 'E's bleedin' demised!
      • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
        that's a lot more complicated than an encrypted volume
        • It's also a lot less obvious and could appear as a broken or damaged flash drive, rather than an obviously encrypted one. No court in the world can compel you to "decrypt" a fried flash drive.
          • But when they open it up and find out what you've done they'll give you a backdoor dental exam.

            • It's a legitimate data security device, if implemented properly (e.g. designed to fry the flash and not the computer it is plugged into); you'd be in no deeper shit from using that than you would be from using the auto-wipe functionality most phones have if the incorrect passcode is entered too many times. Meanwhile, hold out on that encryption key for too long and find yourself held in contempt of court and possibly charged with obstruction of justice and, if the DA is feeling like a dick that day, destruc
        • 1) It's not an either/or situation. Encrypt it as well

          2) You ever build encryption software yourself? It's far more complicated. The only reason you think otherwise is that you buy off the shelf . My USB self-destructor can be built and sold rather easily. Then your only problem is 'authorities' getting wise to the appearance, which you can change every month.

  • by waspleg ( 316038 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @06:04PM (#54054057) Journal

    but the old one has tons of youtube videos of killing shit and as someone who works K-12 this kind of thing has managers pissing their pants in fear of kids with them.

    • but the old one has tons of youtube videos of killing shit and as someone who works K-12 this kind of thing has managers pissing their pants in fear of kids with them.

      Then disconnect the external USB ports on desktops and epoxy them in on laptops. There are so many ways for kids to destroy school property, why be afraid of this one?

      • by hondo77 ( 324058 )

        Then disconnect the external USB ports on desktops...

        You do realize that USB-connected devices like keyboards and mice make desktop computers really useful, don't you?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Yeah but the question is-- who gives a fuck about this... there are so many ways to break shit-- just run a sharpie over any screen... or to update Abbie Hoffman, plug an ethernet internal network into the power mains...

          I've got another device you can use to fuck up tech laptops and it costs less than a USB stick. It's called a hammer. Version 2.0 is a glass sphere filled with dihydrogen monoxide.

          This whole obsession with this device strikes me as something for young teenagers to get all excited about bec

          • by waspleg ( 316038 )

            Well, for one thing, because they could probably take out a row of machines in a computer lab before a teacher would even notice?

            It's far more subtle than just throwing a laptop on the floor and jumping on it (or 8 ... yes, this happened, no, the parents didn't pay a cent and the kid left the district without consequence).

            • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

              Well, for one thing, because they could probably take out a row of machines in a computer lab before a teacher would even notice?

              It's far more subtle than just throwing a laptop on the floor and jumping on it (or 8 ... yes, this happened, no, the parents didn't pay a cent and the kid left the district without consequence).

              And the solution to that, if enough computers are broken because of it, is for everyone to buddy up again. We all did it when computers were new and novel and computer labe barely had eno

        • It was a joke. This is an interesting demonstration, but probably less likely to happen than a kid just keying the principal's car.
    • Yet any student can do much more harm with a flathead screwdriver or an adjustable wrench (without even using them as weapons).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Victa ( 186697 )

      As someone who worked Admin/Support in a K-12 school long enough to see kids come in one end and leave at the other, I can say that a good portion of people in this age group simply like breaking shit (that does not belong to them).

      They get a kick out of knowing that SOMEONE is going to be inconvenienced by it, either the next user or the support guys who have to try and fix it.

      For example; Switching to optical mice saved us a good 30 mins a day in replacing mouse balls, we would usually find the balls with

  • So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2017 @06:12PM (#54054103)

    And, with microUSB, USB-C, and Lightning adapters, the USB Kill claims to be able to kill iPhones, iPads, and other devices, like phones, tablets, and digital cameras

    A hammer can break all of those things too. That doesn't mean it's interesting to do that or that all those devices should be made hammer-proof. Beyond the initial "I wonder if I can break shit via USB" idea and proof of concept this really doesn't seem at all interesting or useful. Making it bigger and badder is just pointless.

    • You clearly lack an understanding of adolescents, and those that behave as such. Particularly with the "anonymous" option, this sort of device has a strong novelty factor that coupled with poor impulse control makes for a lot of unpleasant outcomes. This is easily evidenced by all the rich kid videos on YouTube where they get their kicks blowing out expensive things with USB ports. Scatter these things around public places and all sorts of mayhem will ensue when naive fools jab them into their systems to "s
    • Pet rocks are/were pointless too. The question is will saying "We're not liable for whatever you do with this!!" stand up in court...

    • If you leave a hammer in a targets parking lot it is not safe to assume they will test it on their laptop.

      The potential attack surface of this device is huge because of what it looks like and what people typically do.

  • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @06:15PM (#54054119)
    When can we get one that's an actual phone? It would be great for use as a burner when leaving and returning to the US. Though I doubt the TSA is going to find the humor to their liking. But I don't really find the legal gray zone at the border very funny either.
    • I find that idea quite interesting. Not sure how the legals work out but, quite interesting. The closest I can find is one of these [thehomesec...rstore.com]. Perhaps one can be modified.
    • When can we get one that's an actual phone? It would be great for use as a burner when leaving and returning to the US. Though I doubt the TSA is going to find the humor to their liking. But I don't really find the legal gray zone at the border very funny either.

      Just remember to tell them not to plug it in. It is not like they are going to respond to your warning anyway.

  • by cirby ( 2599 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @06:19PM (#54054139)

    ...when you get a USB stick that's not in a sealed container from the store, plug it into an old USB hub for a while to see if it blows anything up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rgmoore ( 133276 )

      Just make sure that hub isn't plugged into a computer, since the stick could have a malicious data payload. Note, though, that the same company that makes the USB Kill Stick also makes a plug in surge suppressor that protects USB ports against the Kill Stick. I'm sure they're planning on selling them to people like law enforcement who have to worry about malicious hardware.

      Just remember, the only people who win in an arms race are arms manufacturers.

    • Or plug it into a Mac*, which apparently has safeguards in place against this sort of thing. From the article:

      Dubbed the USB Kill stick, it fries almost any device with a USB port, though modern Apple hardware is apparently not affected.

      The article is not clear regarding whether Macs are immune to both versions of the USB Kill Stick, or just to the original version.

      * Please don't plug it into my Mac.

  • You think they can they make one of these for my mother-in-law's pacemaker?

    https://youtu.be/6EN5eJf5h_k [youtu.be]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    U have to be a real jerk to use this.

  • Also break electronics
  • You could design the shell to be grenade-like, put a tiny little valid bit of flash drive inside and surround it with high density capacitors.

    Rather than blast the attached USB port, you could simply short out all the capacitors and you have a very low-yield anti-personnel device that could blind someone, maybe cripple a hand if you design it to explode on device removal. Anyone who has ever shorted the capacitors in a disposable camera knows they pack a fair bit of wallop in a small space when charged up.

  • Can brick your laptop in several ways:
    * pour the entire can into your USB slot.
    * pound the can into the screen.
    * use the tab to short the battery.
    * offer local children a can of coke to throw the laptop into the river.

  • About as funny and about as legal. Though said ax may get you shot, which is a plus.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @07:45PM (#54054701)

    ... built into a fake OBD II diagnostic port. Car thieves can pair electronic keys with a car with commands through this port. So now, when they break in and plug in their cracking tool [jalopnik.com] .... poof!

  • Liars. Designed to deceive people and destroy electronics, otherwise a clearly visible "DO NOT USE" mention would be written on the stick.
  • It won't be long before this device becomes illegal to own, import and operate.

    The laser pointers where only illegal because hoodlums used them agains police, airplanes and helicopters. The same thing will happen with this device as kids will purchase them do do "mass revenge" or destruction in their schools.

If you hype something and it succeeds, you're a genius -- it wasn't a hype. If you hype it and it fails, then it was just a hype. -- Neil Bogart

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