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For years, rumors have circulated that sharing a flash drives poses risk of frying laptops, something most people scoffed at but now, it appears to be true. To determine if something like this could actually happen, the USB Killer device was created as a prototype.
This past February, an individual who goes by “Dark Purple” created a project that consisted of pictures, as well as technical details on a blogging platform in Russia. However, earlier this week, a version in English was posted but on a different site.
The USB thumb drive is not only malicious but also designed to invert DC-to-DC converter as a ways of drawing power from the USB port on the laptop, which in turn changes the capacitor bank to negative 110 volt. With that, power goes back to the USB interface through a transistor, followed by the process being repeated in a loop.
It was discovered that high current and high voltage combined is in fact powerful enough to overtake smaller TVS diodes located on bus lines that in turn, fry sensitive components. In fact, the prototype successfully fried the CPU. Because most modern laptops have a USB integrated with the CPU, an attack is highly effective.
While no one knows who Dark Purple really is, reportedly this individual works for an electronics manufacturing company. To complete his prototype and conduct research, the custom printed circuit board along with several other components were easily ordered out of China.
Dark Purple came up with the concept of creating a destructive USB after hearing a story about a laptop being fried when a man inserted a USB drive he had stolen out of the backpack of another person riding the subway. The project confirms that sharing USB flash drives poses risk, something security researchers have warned about for years.
Researchers have long stated that putting USB drives of other people into a laptop is dangerous, especially those who are unknown or distrusted. Not only is there a risk of infection from malware but now, it has been proven that serious damage to a laptop’s electrical system can occur.