- A former student of a college in New York state fried several of the school’s computers and hardware using a device called a “USB killer” that can easily be bought online, according to court documents first reported by ZDNet.
- USB killer devices charge themselves and quickly discharge enough electricity into a computer’s USB port to damage the computer’s internal parts.
- The damages totaled more than $58,000, including employee time for repairs.
- The former student pleaded guilty to multiple charges and is facing $250,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison.
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A graduate of the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York, returned to his alma mater in February 2019 and fried several computers and other hardware using a device called a “USB killer,” according to court documents first reported by ZDNet.
The devices that were destroyed, which were intended to be used by students and staff of the school, included 59 Windows computers, seven Apple computers, and “numerous” computer monitors and computer-enhanced podiums at the college, according to the court documents.
The former student, who had graduated from the college with an MBA in 2017, apparently filmed himself in the act of destroying the college-owned computers and hardware. In the videos, according to court documents, the graduate said “I’m going to kill this guy” while inserting the USB killer device into a college computer, and after the USB killer fried the hardware, the graduate said “it’s dead … it’s gone … boom.”
It’s not clear why the former student did this.
The damages totaled $58,471, including $51,109 for the damaged devices, and $7,362 “in employee time investigating, repairing, and replacing the computer hardware.”
- REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
USB killers can easily be purchased online. One listing for a USB killer device with the “Amazon’s Choice” badge says the device is designed to “test surge protection” on devices. But later in the product description, the lister said, “Simply put: used on unprotected equipment, the USB killer instantly and permanently disables unprotected hardware.”
The devices work by charging themselves, then quickly releasing that charge back through a computer’s USB port. The graduate repeated this quick charge and discharge “multiple times per second,” resulting in fried internal computer parts, according to court documents.
USB killer devices can be sold with adapters that fit into several devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Some listings for other USB killers without the “Amazon’s Choice” badge include warnings, such as “Please do not use for illegal activities.”
USB killer devices are not illegal and can supposedly be used for legal functions. But it should go without saying that destroying computers and hardware that aren’t yours without the permission of the owner is thoroughly illegal.
The graduate, who is from India and in the US on a student visa, has pleaded guilty to multiple charges and faces $250,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison.