Can Hackers turn a remote computer into a bomb and explode it to kill someone, just like they do in hacker movies? Wait, wait! Before answering that, Let me tell you an interesting story about Killer USB drive:
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!
I’m sure, you would really not imagine yourself being the 130th victim of this Killer perdrive, neither I.
This above story was told to a Russian researcher, nicknamed Dark Purple, who found the concept very interesting and developed his own computer-frying USB Killer pendrive. Dark Purple] recently heard a story about how someone stole a flash drive from a passenger on the subway.
The thief plugged the flash drive into his computer and discovered that instead of containing any valuable data, it completely fried his computer. The fake flash drive apparently contained circuitry designed to break whatever computer it was plugged into.
Since the concept sounded pretty amazing, [Dark Purple] set out to make his own computer-frying USB drive. While any electrical port on a computer is a great entry point for potentially hazardous signals, USB is pretty well protected.
If you short power and ground together, the port simply shuts off. Pass through a few kV of static electricity and TVS diodes safely shunt the power.
Feed in an RF signal and the inline filtering beads dissipate most of the energy. To get around or break through these protections, [Dark Purple]’s design uses an inverting DC-DC converter. The converter takes power from the USB port to charge a capacitor bank up to -110VDC.
After the caps are charged, the converter shuts down and a transistor shunts the capacitor voltage to the data pins of the port. Once the caps are discharged, the supply fires back up and the cycle repeats until the computer is fried (typically as long as bus voltage is present). The combination of high voltage and high current is enough to defeat the small TVS diodes on the bus lines and successfully fry some sensitive components—and often the CPU. USB is typically integrated with the CPU in most modern laptops, which makes this attack very effective.
Stuxnet worm is one of the real example of such cyber attacks, which was designed to destroy centrifuges at the Nuclear facility and all this started from a USB drive.
Also in 2014, a security firm demonstrated an attack on Apple’s Mac computer by overriding temperature controls, which can actually set the machine on fire. So if we say that a computer could be converted into a bomb, then of course it’s true, a hacker can probably make your computer explode as well.
Therefore, next time when you find an unknown USB flash drive, just beware before inserting it into your laptop. Because this time it will not fire up your important files or data stored on your laptop like what malwares do, instead it will fire up your Laptop.