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article image$99 dongle 'fixes' your computer's security by killing USB ports

By James Walker     Nov 8, 2015 in Technology
A $99 dongle is seeking to improve PC security by making it impossible to use the USB ports so attackers can't easily steal data. The bizarre device is seeking crowd-funding now and appears to be derived from the recent motherboard-frying Killer USB.
Engadget reports that USB Killer's campaign is live on Indiegogo now. It's looking to raise $10,000 to "get rid of the easiest way to steal data - USB ports on our computers." Apparently, making do without USB is a "useful habit" that can "save a ton of nerves" if you're concerned about security.
The Russian device is essentially a knock-off copy of the Killer USB stick widely featured in the media just last month. Whereas that completely fried the motherboard, USB Killer apparently just electrocutes your USB ports — and charges you $99 for the privilege. The campaign warns accuracy cannot be guaranteed and USB Killer "may cause damage to the motherboard."
Based on past evidence, it looks like the disclaimer should actually be phrased as "almost certainly will cause damage to the motherboard." There is a video of an old laptop remaining usable after it has been connected but a website about the device reveals it is using exactly the same technology as the motherboard-frying Killer USB. In other words, anything could happen and there is no way of limiting the damage to just the USB ports. It all depends on the computer's circuitry.
After it is connected, the dongle begins to draw power from the USB port and stores it all in capacitors. When the capacitors are fully charged, the entire load is sent as a single pulse directly down the signal lines of the USB port, completely overloading it and all the circuits it is connected to.
There are a number of suggested use cases for the dongle. The creators suggest it could come in handy in a home break-in if burglars are looking for personal details to steal. Finding the USB Killer left next to the computer, they plug it in to see if anything useful is stored on it. The computer's USB port is immediately burnt out, "protecting you and your information."
Another scenario involves your wife "finding a USB drive full of photos you would rather her not to see." It is suggested that USB Killer could be deployed to eliminate the risk of her looking at your "compromising photos."
The creators are looking to mass produce the "wonderful device" so it can help people permanently stop data theft from their computer. It's unlikely this idea is going to catch on though as paying $99 to permanently disable a USB port and potentially fry the motherboard doesn't seem like the best way to protect against data theft. Most notably, the device does nothing at all to prevent hackers accessing files remotely over the Internet, a much more common attack vector in the modern age.
More about Usb, killer usb, Security, Pc, Circuit
 
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