If you haven’t heard of the USB Killer before, it’s essentially a USB stick with a bunch of capacitors hidden within. When you plug it into a host device (a smartphone, a PC, an in-car or in-plane entertainment system), those capacitors charge up—and then a split second later, the stick dumps a huge surge of electricity into the host device, at least frying the port, but usually disabling the whole thing. For more information on its technical operation, read our original USB Killer explainer.
The new USB Killer V3, which costs about £50/$50, is apparently 1.5 times more powerful than its predecessor, is more lethal (it pumps out eight to 12 surges per second), and is itself more resistant to setups that might cause the USB Killer to fry itself. A spokesperson clarified this last point to Ars: “The V3 is engineered to withstand short-circuit configurations, intentional or otherwise. Typically, when a host device fails, it will either fail to an open circuit, or a closed circuit. If a short-circuit isn’t detected, the USB Kill would essentially continue to discharge into itself, i.e. suicide.”
A slightly more nefarious development, though, is that there’s now an “anonymous” model that looks like a boring, black USB stick. Previously the USB Killer was white with a geeky decal on the side, but, now, thanks to “huge demand” from “penetration testers and police/government users,” there’s a USB Killer that just fades into the background. (You can still buy the white model. Perhaps so you’re less likely to accidentally plug it into your own PC, or something.)
Finally, there’s a new adaptor kit (£15/$15), which includes three separate socket adaptors: Micro USB, USB Type-C, and Lightning. Last year, we reported that the USB-C’s Authentication spec might save such devices from the USB Killer—but apparently that isn’t the case.
People are jerks. That is just a fact.
Every time a bit of armor is improved, a bullet is improved to defeat it. That cycle has continued… and seems to extend into consumer technology. I guess the best example would be… well… this.
As a creative professional, this should emphasize to you just how important reliable hard drives and external RAID drives are. If someone doesn’t fry your computer because they think you’re a butt, someone is going to break in and walk away with your Macbook Pro.