What is USB Killer and How Protect Yourself from its Attacks?

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Do You Know USB Killer?

We’ve mentioned USB Killer as a new technology invention some months ago here and now its second version (USB Killer V2.0) is available! Continue reading to find out answer of what is USB Killer, how it works and learn how to protect yourself from its attacks…

These days, electronic systems turned into a safe for most of the users which keeps their important information. The least important things like family photos and videos in case of getting stolen can cause the person serious problems. Fortunately or unfortunately, as safety of electronic devices increase daily, amount of new tools created to destroy or hack computer systems increase at the same pace too.

Of course, hacking or stealing files isn’t always the worst scenario that can happen; removing or destroying those files doesn`t let anybody including their owner see them again. So it’s better to know what is it and how it works to protect your computer system from its risks.

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What is USB Killer Really?


One of the basic and most important rules to maintain security of computer systems is not clicking on suspected links that you don’t know, the links which source (or creator) and destination (where you’ll be redirected to) is unclear because they can carry virus. And now there’s another rule which if you fail to comply with it, it will makes much worse damage to your computer because this time, instead of software sabotage (virus link) it’ll destroy your computer hardware completely!

The rule is never connect an UNKNOWN flash memory card which comes to your hand from people who you don’t trust because it can be a USB Killer!

USB Killer is a $49 device (like a flash memory) which after having connected can burn a computer completely in a few seconds. After being inserted into the USB port, it discharges computer with a 220 negative voltage; this amount of voltage is unacceptable for motherboard and destroys it fast so that other parts of computer won’t be able to work anymore. Of course, some types of USB Killers aren’t intended for computers and they can discharge other devices with a USB port.

USB Killer 2

If you feel negative about any type of flash memory now and prefer to remove it from the list of your data transfer devices completely, you should know that damage strikes only the main board and although there will be a 220-volt electrical explosion, the possibility of damage to the hard drive is little.

USB Killer works simple. After connecting to the USB port, a DC/DC converter will run and charge capacitors 110 volts, then, when voltage reaches 110, DC/DC will turn off and FET transistor will be activated. FET transistor is used to transfer 110 volts of signal lines through USB. When voltage of capacitors goes up to 7, transistor will turn off and DC/DC starts working again. This circle repeats until everything is destroyed. The process seems to be long, but it does not take more than a few seconds.

One of the active YouTube users (Thomas Kim) shows how to create a USB Killer manually and without paying $49 which can have serious consequences! To make a USB Killer you`ll need to combine a camera flash components and an AA battery and your USB Killer is ready and by transferring 300 volts at once to the victim’s system, can make it out of use.

Although many electronic components are resistant against this kind of voltage, USB bus isn’t, so it allows passing this excessive force which will affect other parts of system negatively and probably kill it!

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How Protect Yourself from These Type of Attacks?


You might be asking yourself now what to do to protect your computer or other devices from this kind of attack. We’ve come of several suggestions that might help you.

The first, and most important one, is not to insert an unknown flash memory into your device. Moreover, don`t accept a USB flash from people you don`t trust or you don`t know. However, if you have to deal with this kind of situations a lot, you can purchase a USB protection device (like SyncStop) which is able to protect your device from any attack, data theft or malware. And finally, if you have to leave your device unattended, you can manually cap your USB ports.

It might be useful for you to know, that by now the only brand which devices are resistant to USB Killer is Apple. As they put it, Apple is “the only company to [protect its hardware] voluntarily.”

As many people read articles about hacking and security to increase their knowledge and prevent themselves from hacking, it’s the same for writing article about devices like USB Killer. It means, you need to be more careful when you want to connect an unknown flash memory to your system. We recommend you not to make it; but if you’re a very curious person and are ready to take the risk of destroying your computer system with a USB Killer just to see how it works, try it only on your personal system and don’t do such a tasteless joke to your friends.

What USB Killer does…


How USB Killer can be made easily…


Image Source: USBKILL.com

33 comments

  1. Hi Ali.

    This is a very scary post. I never heard of a USB Killer. And I’m definitely sure I don’t want one in my USB drive. Ugh. I had no idea about this.

    Fortunately I don’t ever need to put any USB sticks into my port except my own. It is good that you gave your readers some suggestions for ways to protect your equipment.

    It was nice of you to put the video of how to make one in there; but I can’t imagine ever wanting to make one. Lol.

    Thanks for the information.

    Jeannie

    1. Hi Jeannie, nobody like to make one! 😉 However I thought it might be useful if others know how it can be created easily. There’s nothing to worry about if you are careful about people who you get flash memory from and if you use only your own USB sticks you’ll be safe )

      Best,
      Ali

  2. This makes sense now. I had a Windows laptop sometime ago with 2 usb ports. After plugging in a usb stick suddenly the ports heated up and stopped working. Cost a fortune to repair. Had I known about the USB killer I could have taken protective steps.

    Thanks Ali for bringing this to everyones attention.

  3. Wow, I didn’t know that one could destroy a computer in a few seconds just by using a USB device! The videos you put in your article show very clearly what a USB killer is and how it can affect all USB devices. I’m also pleased to see that Apple protects its hardware, as I’m currently working on an iMac! Very good and detailed article, bravo!

  4. This is a device I certainly was not aware of. It can be quite scary can’t it?
    I am aware that what comes in the way of technology, other technology is developed as a means to hack or destroy it.
    This has opened my eyes a lot, as I am always allowing friends and family to use my computer and other devices.
    Will the USB Killer also destroy other devices, Like game consoles etc. What if you plug it into the back of your TV set for example?

    Great eye opener here, thanks for the information!
    Chris

    1. Hi Chris, it’s like virus, do you worry about viruses? Not that much because you have Antivirus and you know malware have been there from a long time ago. This is just a type of new technology which of course can be harmful but not for people who know about it. So if you just will be more careful, you’ll stay safe.
      I’ve not heard about its effect on other devices such as TV but it’ll probably have negative effect if it’s connected to any other USB devices.

      Best,
      Ali

  5. Wow! This is pretty disconcerting! Thank you for sharing!!! My husband and I just purchased a new USB from Staples; these are safe, right? I mean there is no danger if we are going to a store and purchasing one for ourselves, correct? Thank you for sharing.
    Kathy

    1. You’re welcome Kathy. Yes it’s totally safe and you don’t need to worry about. Also you don’t need to worry about flash memories that you get from your friends or family and you just need to be some more careful when you get it from an untrusted or strange person.

      Best,
      Ali

  6. Wow, I never realized that there was such a thing out there. This is important information that everyone should be aware of. While I know about not clicking on unknown links, etc., I had never given any thought to the dangers of an unknown USB drive. Not that anyone has ever tried to hand me on, but just in case now I know about the danger. The thieves and mischief makers are always coming up with new ways to get us!

    1. Thanks Carol for your comment. Yes it always good to keep our knowledge up to date about digital world risks. Then we can stay aware of such dangerous situations.

      Best,
      Ali

  7. I didn’t even know that there was such a flash drive that could do such a thing as this. I like to keep up with technology like this so this was quite surprising to read.

    My only question with this is. Why? Why do people want to harm someone else’s computer? What do they even gain out of this?

    Thank you though for coming up with a solution to this problem. For me though I’ve never had the need to take a drive from someone. But if I do then I will think twice about it.

    1. Hi Owain, nice question! ) It’s come to our mind when we’re talking about anything that has both positive and negative sides like dynamit. It could be useful when a harmful computer should destroys fast for security reasons. Yes it rare but it happens. But you’re right, specially when we see its low price which everybody can buy it easily. Maybe after a while, a clear description from its creator can answer these types of questions.

      Best,
      Ali

  8. Ali,

    In this day and age of transferring information with a USB drive from one person to another, this information on the USB killer is most important. I have never heard of it before. I do get USB sticks from people from time to time for proofreading, how is the best way to know if it is safe. I did notice the size is quite large, is there any other identifiers for people who use this data transfer method.

    John

    1. Hi John, fortunately there’are ways to protect yourself from USB Killer attacks. You can use USB protection devices such as SyncStop. Or if you’re using an Apple device, you’re lucky because Apple company is the only brand which its devices are resistant to USB Killer.
      And the last but not least way is get flash memories only from people that you’re trusting. If you are using this transfer method a lot and never had any issue, it shows that people that you’re working with are trustworthy (like most people in the world in my opinion; yes fortunately good people are still more than bad people!) so you can continue working with them and using this method. This only can be an alarm for you when you want to get flash memories from strangers and people who you don’t trust them.

      Best
      Ali

  9. Wow, who knew that the computer was that vulnerable to complete destruction. I think this might also be pertinent to public libraries or anywhere that offers a computer with easy access to the USB drives. What are the most common stories of USB killers being used? It seems easy to make one, are there risks for people going around in public places and frying motherboards?

    1. Hi Kfan, well everything is possible. Some new inventions have both positive and negative sides and I think just keep our knowledge up to date let us prevent ourselves from the negative side. As I’ve mentioned in the article, fortunately there’re devices which you can use to prevent yourself from its attacks and it also can be used for computer in public places too.

      Best,
      Ali

  10. Wow, I had never heard of USB Killers before.
    Thanks for this article and making me aware of this danger.

    I will make sure now, that I don’t use USB drives from people I don’t know.
    Have you ever had personal experiences with USB Killers?

    Really interesting article.

    Cheers
    Moritz

    1. Hi Moritz and thanks for your comment ) No, fortunately I’ve hadn’t bad experience with USB Killer but I’m not sure about the future! ; )

      Best,
      Ali

  11. Wow. I’m so glad I have an iMac right now. Would the technology ever be able to crossover or am I protected as long as I have an apple device? It would be pretty hard to inspect every device I encountered and could you find it in the form of a hard-drive too?

    1. Hi Ryan, there’s no guarantee! How knows… maybe the next invention will be something like USB Killer for iMac. I guess the best way to protect yourself is keeping up to date with new tech always.
      Fortunately It’s not in the form of a hard-drive yet. )

      Best,
      Ali

  12. This article is very informative about the usb killer. Information on the computer is very important nowadays. It contains photos, videos, privates messages etc. That information cannot be shared with anyone else. The usb killer helps with that in destroying the computer’s hardware before a virus comes and snatches your secrets. Very informative. Thank you :)!

  13. WOW, you learn something new every day, never heard of it before. A very helpful alert, makes one cautious about letting strangers near your computer, also a good plug for Apple. Why would someone build such a thing? There is so much negative activity surrounding the Internet. Are there penalties for destructive Internet behavior? Thanks for sharing.

    1. You’re welcome and nice to see that it was useful for you ) Well, it can be used both on negative and positive way, it’s totally depends on the person who wants to use it.
      There should be penalties for these types of behaviors but since Internet is a visual world, arresting people for negative acts isn’t that much easy. That’s why Internet is full of spams and etc. like real world! )

      Best,
      Ali

  14. Yikes! This is new to me, but I can see how easy it would be to fry your computer with the USB killer. Fortunately for me, no one goes near my computer and Carbonite backs everything up too, but I can imagine teenagers frying their dad’s PC with one of these just to see if it works. The more complex our technology becomes, the vulnerable it is.

    1. That’s right Gary; that’s why we need to know about these type of technologies to protect ourselves from teenagers’s attacks! 😉

      Best,
      Ali

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