The USB Killer – Now A Crowdfunding Campaign

Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and every other crowdfunding site out there frequently have projects that should never be products. The latest promises to protect you from security breaches and identity theft by blowing up your computer. It’s the USB Killer, and for only $99 USD, you too can destroy the USB port in your computer and everything else attached to it.

The USB Killer is a device that plugs into the USB port on any computer, charges up several caps, and dumps all that voltage back into the computer. The process repeats until something breaks. We’ve seen it used on a poor Thinkpad X60, and from the video evidence it does exactly what it’s designed to do: kill a computer.

The Indiegogo campaign for the USB killer comes with a web page for the campaign that goes over the function of the device in much more detail. Inside the USB killer is a DC/DC converter that charges a few capacitors to -110V. When the caps are charged, that voltage is dumped back into the USB port where something will happen. Somewhat surprisingly, the folks behind the USB Killer have a video of a computer not dying when the USB Killer is plugged in. Only killing the USB port in a computer is not a guaranteed functionality, as the Indiegogo campaign has the following disclaimer: “Please be aware: USB Killer may cause damage to the motherboard, depending on your computer. By making a pre-order you acknowledge that you are aware of this fact.”

128 thoughts on “The USB Killer – Now A Crowdfunding Campaign

  1. imho this should be released in source only because anyone who can’t build one (and many people who can) shouldn’t be allowed to own one. what I’m getting at here is the possibility of a bunch of shitty kids buying them and frying random computers just for shits and giggles. at least “adults” who have the skills to build one will be able to fully understand the consequences of plugging one into a random computer.

    1. There is that as well, Used maliciously these could end up costing computer owners thousands per unit sold. I really hope the people buying these are sensible enough not to go around breaking public access computers for a laugh. I would only use this as a honeypot trap and even a that I am not sure if I would bother.

        1. People found out how to shut down the computers by shoving their headphones in the USB ports and shorting the power supply at my school. There is also random crap in the CD trays.

          1. they removed the belt that opens the CD trays so we never got to use them unless we were lucky and found one that worked … but i mean it was already 2007 …

          2. My first thought was exactly the same.
            It shouldn’t be THIS easy for dumb kids to get hold of one of these things.
            The idea of a killer-USB-drive isn’t exactly new, and its easy to build one.
            But as this thing is meant to destruct Computers, it shouldn’t be sold.

            I know that in my school, pupils even put a pencil through the LCD panel…

            Then again, an USB port that can be fried by shorting it out, is just a shitty USB-Port.
            The USB-Port should go into Constant Current (CC) operation, when it gets overloaded, thus supplying not more than 500mA CC.
            If i am honest, i accidently short out the USB-Ports of my Laptop on a reagular basis (~once every month) because i dont bother bulding a case for my electronics (especially AVR burner).

        2. We had one kid who had the balls to flick every PSU switch from 240 to 110 during recess. The teach then hit the master switch for the room and BAM!!!!! We could hear it in the next building and the teacher nearly had a heart attack.

          I laughed then as I was a kid because “HAHA RADMON DESTRUCTION PRANK!” but thinking about it later that as a LOT of equipment destroyed and possibly the death due to heart attack to a beloved IT teacher, That guy went on to teach me a lot about computers and robotics when I was in his class a year later.

          1. A) that’s fucked up
            B) who taught you the ass hole kid or the teacher?
            C) glad that teacher didn’t die
            D) never had a tech teacher that wasn’t awesome. had a couple that didn’t teach me much sure, but can you blame them when they are supposed to teach me typing and nothing else, and the only time they could teach anything else was when everyone was ahead of the syllabus cause it’s typing.

          1. Plugging it into specially designed stand alone port that can handle the voltage, perhaps it could be used as a (very niche) sort of power supply. – Jokes.

    2. IMO (Anyone who claims that they are Humble, rarely are) there is no need for open-source hardware, anyone who needs a circuit to store power, convert from low voltage to a high voltage and dump it inverted into the supply can do so already.

  2. $99 seems a bit steep, While I like the idea of this as a joke/novelty If I ever decided I needed one of these I think I would make my own. Good luck to the guys making it though.

      1. Ifi it was in a laptop the other way around. If you plug in a bad USB that doesn’t verify. It hits it with several hundred volts (or maybe a short burst of say thirty amps) that could be a weapon but it could be a security measure.
        If someone made this thing with a decent amount of storage and put it in a case that would fry it’s own contents if opened. I’d buy one.

      2. Not a concealed weapon as I don’t think it can shock a person only computers, It charges for a second or so then discharges striaght away. While you could change it do discharge when you want you can also turn any object into a weapon. While i see it might not be a joke it is def a novelty item.

  3. Do they seriously think disabling the USB ports will block people from accessing their data? If it’s a laptop, just take the laptop and extract the hard drive at leisure. If it’s a desktop/tower, even easier to quickly extract the hard drive. This USB Killer device in no way protects any data from one who knows how to get at it.

    1. What are you on about? disabling USB ports? this device kills anything the USB port links to, typically the northbridge of your motherboard. It’s purely destructive, also disabling the USB port in software won’t save you at all.

      1. It might actually, some motherboards will disable power to the USB as well when you disable the port. It has to be able to do that to prevent undesired power drain when going into standy.

    2. I think that is just the spin on it. I’m pretty sure that it is illegal to maliciously attack a computer in most western countries, whether over the internet, or in person. This is simply a way of them pretending that the device is actually a security device that someone would want to own in order to “disable” their USB port permanently. If indiegogo doesn’t pull this campaign I certainly will avoid ever doing anything with them again. Not a tough decision, because I’ve had nothing but the worst experiences with Indiegogo anyways.

    3. You don’t buy this to secure Your data…
      You buy this device because someone pissed you off and you want to potentially cause several hundred dollars worth of damage.

      Also, you’re not just disabling the USB port, you are permanently burning it up. Using a flash drive in the linked video was just proving the USB port was blown. He could’ve also plugged in a webcam.

      1. That’s one of the hardest things to do. Nothing is impossible but perhaps some things are limitless. Where some see creativity others see stupidity. Then again there are those who simply have no common sense.

    1. LOL, only in a country like USA…. I suppose that manufacturers of paper shredders (a device with the sole purpose of destroying something) also need good lawyers when someone damages their important papers?

      1. we’re not taking about someone damaging their own property we’re talking about them damaging someone elses property. it’s illegal to destroy other people property in almost all countries and that’s what this device is meant to do. yes the person that does it will be sued but in most “first world” countries the maker will be sued for damages.

  4. This is just vandalism. It has no other purpose. I don’t call it a joke to damage someone’s computer.
    I would think that even with the lame CYI disclaimer in the campaign that this would have tremendous legal risk for the company.
    Would someone with the same sense of humor that developed this product think it was funny if they took everyone’s money and gave them an ineffective device? Who would be in a position to complain?

    1. Because *you* can’t think of another purpose, it has none?

      It might have applications in civil disobedience. Carry one of these, and if it is illegally searched it will fry the police computer.

      For example, at an airport you could plainly state that the device is not a regular USB stick and that sticking it in a computer may damage it. If they take it and try to make a copy of the data, they get what they deserve.

      For example, if you’re arrested by the cops and one of these is found in your possession, they need a warrant to search it. (Yes, they do. that’s been decided already.) If their computer gets fried in the process, then they have to explain why they were accessing your private information without a warrant.

      And so on.

      1. And then rapists, thieves, and murders go free because you fucked up the computer containing some sort of evidence or whatever. But you dont give a fuck about that do you? You are only interested in being an over privileged shithead.

        1. If LEO was stupid enough to connect a USB stick of unknown content to computer that stores vital evidence (especially if it is the only copy), then he deserves to get that computer fried. And it doesn’t need to be a USB Killer, it could have some new virus that would wipe entire HDD.
          LEOs might be stupid, but ot stupid enough to connect unknown devices to normal computers. They usually have special machine with computer forensics software for that purpose.

        2. It is standard protocol to create a separate hard-copy of any relevant data to protect the case from random hardware failures. Police forensics make copies for inter-department storage, prosecutor copy and a copy for the defense attorneys..

      2. If I wanted to protect my privacy I would have the USB device fry to destroy the info I wanted kept private, not another person’s computer. Too many potential accidental victims of this device.

        1. If it was wired in such a way to melt a microSD card inside a USB stick, that would be far more useful. Fried microSD cards could be replaced, as well as being upgraded in size, by using a guitar pick to open the cover.

      3. oh god, as much as I dislike the idea of loads of these things in the wild in the hands of vandals, I absolutely love the idea of a cop frying his computer when he decides to go all “I AM THE LAW AND CAN SEARCH WHATEVER I WANT WHENEVER I WANT” and taking my “drive” against my will.

          1. They pick and choose what law to follow when it suites them and people complain. They pick and choose the law to suit them and the general public blindly says, I agree to terms and conditions.
            Think of all the things you wouldn’t be able to use if you only used the things that you actually agreed the terms and conditions of.

          2. Not so at all, not anywhere in the free world.

            If they ask you and you tell them lies about it then they have a comeback but if they randomly take your stuff adn plug it in their computer it is on their head, not yours.

          3. if a cop wrenches it out of my hands and decides to plug it in to a computer after I say that I don’t consent to searches, it’s his own fault and comeuppance for trampling over my rights. and do you really think telling a cop that I have a destructive device designed to look like a flash drive would go over well with a cop? I imagine most would assume “bomb!” and blow things WAY out of proportion.

      4. Announce in airport security that you have an electronic device with a secret, unspecified purpose. I’m sure they’ll let you on the plane. They definitely won’t detain you until you explain what it is…

        1. That’s actually my biggest worry with this sort of device, tons of other things have USB ports on for media/charging purposes (cars, planes). Who knows what sort of over voltage protection is on the back end of these ports and if they’re electrically connected to other vital systems. I’m no EE but protection against this sort of attack probably isn’t the first thing I’d think of designing for in projects.

  5. HA! I had one of those dells in the second test. hunk of crap was near bullet proof. Bought it from a pawn shop and rode it straight into the ground. Took years, and even then it was just the hard drive that gave out. I wonder if i have that around here somewhere…

  6. If this was a device that (silently) destroys itself (flash chips) if you enter password incorrectly that would be a great product. They are talking something about that option on the bottom of their Indiegogo page. But $100 for electroshocker that might work is a bit too much.

    1. Image a laptop that does what this does but backwards. If you plug in a usb that doesn’t verify it cooks it. [call it usb-be-gone :D] seriously though if this thing had storage space it could be used for something other than destruction of property. Obviously it would have to defend and worst case scenario self destruct itself in response to being taken apart but it could be a decent item for the security conscious.

    1. Imagine if some of the crowd funding campaigns were honey pot style traps. They have probably considered/tried it before. They watch all tragic so they can see this thread. Sometimes it’s fun just to leave a message and say hello :D

  7. I wonder if Dark Purple (the Russian electronics expert that created the original device) is a part of the campaign or even knows that other people are making money off of it.
    Also, I would be surprised if people (in certain countries) are even allowed to purchase and whether or not they will be allowed into said counries. I think the US Custom could possibly block them from entering the US (to protect US citizens from things that wold violate current laws regarding the use of computer systems).

  8. you may want to disguise the usb killer as a usp storage device such as that the police would fall for it and destroy their forensics setup in the process of getting the data.

    1. Yeah…well that’s not going to do any good — they’ll just tack on more charges, take you to jail, and wait for your court date to build a sold case against you (which will lead to more, much more, jail time).

      1. not if they cant get the data because not only would they have to spend thousands on new forensics equipment but then they may make the same mistake again and destroy more forensics equipment until they figure out it is the usb device causing that

          1. Sure, no one has ever lied to cops before. Even if u told them they most likely wouldn’t believe you. They would investigate anyways, even to their own detriment. Once a computer goes up in flames, if not the lab tech who is doing the investigating, they would tack on so many charges just for payback. 2 things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity.

  9. I don’t see the point at all. It’s just for destruction, and now everybody knows about it. I read about it here first, had some not so funny ideas for it. Then it was on the news, now on on kickstarter, soon to be in the news again. Forget it, nobody will fall for it anymore. So after you buy one, where do you keep it? Safe deposit box? On your keyring? It’s like a loaded gun that looks like a cordless screwdriver.

    I guess put in a glass front box on the wall with a sign “break glass in case of AI takeover”

  10. “We are living in such times, when data theft became somewhat “normal”. To prevent that, my creative colleagues and I decided to get rid of the easiest way to steal data – USB ports on our computers. This useful habit to burn ports saved a ton of nerves to us and our friends, who are also deeply concerned about IT security.”

    Who are these people and where the F do they live?

  11. Nice to know who to sue for damage and more importantly for the lost data and hardware downtime. Since indiscamscam is funding it, I would sue them first. Maybe they are smart enough to pull it before it.

  12. Why not just splice an AC power cord to a USB cable?
    Same effect, and a lot cheaper than $99.
    For added entertainment you could always stick it in your mouth, or jam it up your ass.

    How do I start a Kickstarter?

    1. I KNOW!

      Actually this happen to a laptop of mine. I was using a arduino to control a non-isolated DC Motor controller that is powered from AC mains. As soon as I switch on the motor controller that arduino spark and the laptop gave me a warning message about USB controller damage. Laptop still worked.

      A week later I learn about why the industry uses those isolating photo sensors… which I forgot what they were call…

  13. I agree it’s destructive…
    How about using a double sided USB A connector where one side kills the port (or whatever consequence there is to using this proposed device) and the other is actually a flash drive.

    1. even better would be to combine usbkiller with a pendrive, modify firmware to trigger destruction if no pre programmed unlocking takes place:
      -something like copying text file with a password onto the drive before reading anything unlocks it
      -reading anything without copying password file first triggers destruction AND bumps secret counter in the firmware
      -counter reaching predefined value triggers destruction, but redirects high voltage into FLASH chip

      now THAT would be a good product.

  14. We can look at this as a novel way of educating people and whoever regulates the USB standard that it is time for improvement. People (myself included) are far too ready to jam whatever we might find into our unsuspecting computers.
    From now on, USB sticks are no longer a floor-score. =/

    1. Their lawyers could certainly write some angry letters to the crowd funding website demanding this to be taken down or face a civil law suit for $$$ damages to their USB IP properties. Remember that you don’t even need to break a law before you get dragged into a civil law suit.

  15. I submitted the following to Indiegogo. I suggest that others do similar:

    This project is prohibited as the product is specifically designed and intended to destroy property and is quite likely and is INTENDED to cause fatal damage to computers it is used with. Despite the fancy promo material the real aim is to provide a malicious device that will destroy not only USB ports but other computer hardware components in many cases. The aim is to provide buyers with a malicious and destructive tool to target victims. There is no sensible use of this product if destruction of the PC is not a suitable outcome.
    **THEY** say:
    Please be aware: USB Killer may cause damage to the motherboard, depending on your computer. By making a pre-order you acknowledge that you are aware of this fact.

    1. Very, very sad.

      If you don’t want your hardware affected by this device then take the initiative to secure your hardware yourself. Don’t allow access of USB ports on hardware that you don’t trust those with access not to damage and stop expecting the world to be the safe place your parents lied and told you that it was.

  16. The whole idea of this device screams idiocy. If anyone decides to purchase it, as I’m sure plenty of stupid teenagers have, they deserve what’s coming to them. There is absolutely no justification. Finding good reasons for this is bull.

  17. Some of you here don’t seem to understand this device.

    The point of this is simple: the USB dongle, when powered up, will launch a series of attacks on the host device, designed to destroy as much of that device as possible. This particular one hopes to achieve that goal by applying -100Vdc to the power and data ports of the USB host. That is the finction and use of the device.

  18. How useless could this thing be? I can think of a lot better ways to permanently disable my own USB ports. I see no legitimate market for this. If there were a legitimate market then why aren’t there computers on the market without USB ports in the first place?

  19. Must be some sort of bad/sad joke. Any engineer who could design this could design this should be able to design a SB storage device that could fry the USB memory and not damage a computer. Designed to part the ignorant from their money and expensive computer equipment. For r the illicit porn that could have taken someone years to collect there are micro SD carda that could be hidden most anywhere Same is true for important personal records, evil plans, the list is so long

  20. In our jurisdiction, destruction of property with damages over $500 constitutes felony vandalism. It only takes one or two computers wrecked with this device to hit that mark.

    Commercializing a device with the sole application of destroying property is a new low.

  21. Maybe everyone is thinking this, but have not said it out loud….
    What if the device they are selling you (claiming to be a USB Killer) is actually contains malware to take over your machine (rather than destroy it).
    That would seem to fit into their odd ‘Consumer agreement’ (http://usb-killer.com/agreement.html)
    You can you look at what really concerns me here: https://plus.google.com/+WilliamLDeRieuxIV/posts/BVHpD5eo5Au
    I would include my google+ post, but it is too long.

    This is the highlight:
    By providing User Content to USB KILLER (they have the right with it as they please)
    Including the right to: exploit in any manner such User Content in all formats and distribution channels now known or hereafter devised

    This leaves me thinking this a bait and switch scam (you think you are buying a usb killer) but you really are allowing malware onto you system and allowing the to legallydo so.

    Why else would they need that type of ‘Consumer agreement’ ??

    1. It’s a boiler plate agreement supplied with whatever CMS they’re using: http://bit.ly/1PwAYm3

      Agreeing they may “exploit user content” has nothing to do with exploiting your computer. Besides which, short of a vulnerability in your USB stack, a USB device is limited in what it can do – it can provide files via mass storage, but not force you to run them. It can pretend to be a keyboard or mouse, but can’t invisibly compromise your system that way.

      Besides which, what’s the idea? They claim to destroy your computer, but, surprise! They only compromised it instead. I bet you’ll be so pissed when your computer doesn’t catch fire as promised!

  22. well lots of people low on the tech knowledge tree will be hunting for new jobs. i can just see it now “well they said it would only kill the usb port, i didnt know it would cause the mother board to catch fire. i was just trying to help with network security.”

    their examples are hilarious too:

    “Home or office break-in – Your home or office has been invaded by burglars looking for valuable personal information in order to steal your identity. They see an innocuous-looking USB drive next to your computer and hope to gain access to its data. However, it’s not an ordinary flash stick. After inserting USB Killer into the computer the USB port is burned out, protecting you and your information.”

    and then your home or office burns down as well as you just lost all of the data on the computer the supposed “theif” used.

    “Compromising photos – Your wife is cleaning an apartment one day and finds a USB drive full of photos you would rather her not to see. It’s only a matter of seconds before she gets to the computer to insert the stick; however, you act faster, and use your USB Killer before she arrives. The USB drive is broken and unusable now.”

    not to mention she could go to another computer especially after for some reason the computer you were just using blew up thus preventing her from finding out what was on that drive.

    now lets combine those, say your wife finds the usb killer on the floor and goes to check whats on it and your not home to stop her.. well hope you had some good backups.

    finally this disclaimer is the classiest but i dont know if it will hold up in a court of law:
    “Sometimes, USB Killer may cause damage to the motherboard. This damage may be repaired with no lasting consequences, but data thieves are not going to stick around long enough to do so.”

    how can the damage be repaired with no lasting consequences? i don’t know about you, but having to replace a burnt mother board and having that money gone from my account is a lasting consequence as that is money that can no longer be used on sweet sweet caffeine which will be duly needed to try and recover any data off of the drives that may have been fried when the motherboard went

    in the end this type of thing is a scam aimed at people who dont really understand the nature of things. IT people be warned.

  23. Kids are going to find ways to blow things up. It can be as simple as dragging your feet on the carpet and zapping a PC. they will shove anything they’ve got into any hole they find. gum wrapper in the USB port is probably common. paperclips inside doorlocks is another. There is most likely an entire website, or section of website devoted to the destructive things kids might do (totse, rotteneggs, etc. ) It just pushes device designers to come up with a more rugged product. (At least I wish it would. It sucks when something blows up your usb ports.) At least this one costs enough to keep it out of most children’s hands. This product should come with a disclaimer, anyone using this device or even caught in possession of such a device could likely face criminal charges or death, depending on who’s usb port it gets plugged into.

  24. Don’t overly concern yourself with kids (brats) using these to damage computers. These are the same kids that have probably already damaged themselves by eating Tide pods and washing them down with cans of bleach.

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