Computer-owners, beware! USB flash drives can now be turned into mini-bombs that cause computers and laptops to explode when they are inserted into the machines. Hacking just became nastier.
A Russian researcher nicknamed Dark Purple is known to have developed a “killer USB”. He is said to have related a weird story, from which he might have obtained inspiration to make his own “USB bomb”, that goes as follows:
A man walking in the subway stole a USB flash drive from the outer pocket of someone else’s bag. The pendrive had “128” written on it. After coming home, he inserted the pendrive into his laptop and instead discovering any useful data, he burnt half of his laptop down. The man then took out the USB pendrive, replaced the text “128” with “129” and put it in the outer pocket of his bag… Amen!
Dark Purple is reported to be working with an electronic manufacturing firm. He has allegedly ordered circuit boards from China to make a USB killer stick.
Here is his description of it:
“When we connect it up to the USB port, an inverting DC/DC converter runs and charges capacitors to -110V. When the voltage is reached, the DC/DC is switched off. At the same time, the field transistor opens.”
The USB pendrive he has developed can destroy sensitive components of a computer once it is plugged into it.
“It is used to apply the -110V to signal lines of the USB interface. When the voltage on capacitors increases to -7V, the transistor closes and the DC/DC starts. The loop runs till everything possible is broken down. Those familiar with the electronics have already guessed why we use negative voltage here.”
This is not the first of its kind. Hackers might exploit SCADA vulnerabilities and remove safety controls used by power plants. For example, Stuxnet worm is reminiscent of such a cyber attack where centrifuges at the nuclear facility were destroyed with a USB drive. Another such attack was demonstrated by a security firm in 2014 on an Apple’s Mac computer: temperature controls were manipulated and the computer was made to catch fire.
It seems that a computer itself can be turned into a bomb just with a USB drive. Perhaps, it sounds more tempting to hackers to set the whole hardware on fire than to just fire at software.