A Hong Kong-based company started selling the USB Killer, a $49.95 device designed to test the surge protection of electronics to their limits. While this sounds pretty innocent, this USB flash drive styled device can kill unprotected electronics in mere seconds.
As the company's website explains: When plugged into a device, the USB Killer rapidly charges its capacitors from the USB power lines. When the device is charged, -200VDC is discharged over the data lines of the host device. This charge/discharge cycle is repeated many times per second, until the USB Killer is removed.
Basically, the USB Killer delivers a devastating USB power surge attack that in most cases delivers permanent damage to the USB host and the system's motherboard. The company also sells the USB Protection Shield, a device designed to allow safe testing of the USB Killer without frying your computer.
As ExtremeTech reports, the next time you find a USB drive it may turn out to be a "brick of death". Given the $50 price tag this is unlikely of course, but should mass production ever make them a whole lot cheaper it could become a real danger.
At the same time, however, studies have shown that up to 50% of people will cheerfully plug in a USB drive they found on the ground without taking precautions for what kind of data or malware might be on the drive. If the USB Kill 2.0 is actually shipping in volume, it’s probably a good idea to revisit that tendency — or at least keep an old computer around for testing.