There’s a device out there called USB Kill 2.0 (or USB Killer and other variants) that can fry an electronic device with a USB port. While it looks like an every day USB flash drive, rather than memory, these devices have capacitors that can store up juice being transmitted over the USB bus and then discharge at once. The result is a high-voltage attack on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or other device that can fry the electronics.
YouTuber EverythingApplePro posted a demonstration video with one of these devices where he fried a PC and tried to fry an iPhone 7 Plus and a Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Yes, that’s the same Galaxy Note 7 that has been exploding in the wild, making EverythingApplePro a brave lad.
The short version is that this device appeared to fry the Lightning circuitry on an iPhone 7 Plus, but that device appears to have surge protection preventing broader damage. The Galaxy Note 7 didn’t appear to suffer any damage. The PC demonstrated on early in the video was fried lickety-split.
Looks Like Movie Nonsense
The interesting thing is that this is the kind of device you might see in a movie and shake your head because that’s now how things works. You can walk up to a PC, stick in a thumb drive, and destory it. Right?
But the principle here is sound: capacitors store up juice from the USB port and discharge it all at once. High voltage death then rains down on your device. It’s scary, and I’m glad that iPhones and the soon-to-be-extinct Note 7 are both protected.
TheHackerNews reported in August that recent MacBook models are designed to protect against this kind of attack. Apple optically isolated the USB ports. My educated guess is that such protections will become de rigueur sooner, rather than later. But until then, one of these £49.95 (US$55.80) devices allows any miscreant or ne’er-do-well to wreck your day.
So be careful.