BusKill’s USB Dead Man’s Switch Can Lock-Down Or Self-Destruct Your Laptop If Stolen

The BusKill cable's magnetic attachment triggers a screen lock when disconnected
In the spy thriller series Mission Impossible, Ethan Hunt’s directives from his superiors always self-destruct after being viewed. Information security isn’t just for spies, though. Many people face an uphill battle maintaining digital security, but the toughest challenge may be physical attack. You can only do so much to stop a snatch-and-grab on your computer. One new defense, though, is BusKill, a USB self-destruct switch for your PC.

BusKill is a custom USB magnetic breakaway cable. It acts as a “dead man’s switch,” locking your computer if someone grabs it and severs the magnetic connectors. The project has been around for a couple of years, but as a DIY project. You needed to make your own hardware and compile the source code. Even then, it only worked on Linux.

Now, though, the cable is available for purchase. There’s an app to go along with it, compatible with macOS, Windows, and Linux. The owner of the cable can easily arm and disarm the cable within the BusKill app.

The developers say the device is designed with journalists, activists, travelers, and crypto traders in mind. With that said, anyone concerned about the security of their data could definitely benefit from the device.

buskill self destruct kit
BusKill Self-Destruct Kit

To use the cable, you just plug it into a USB-A port on your laptop. The breakaway portion of the cable has a carabiner at the far end. So, you can attach it to your belt loop or some other part of your clothes. Then, arm the app. Now, ff someone snatches your laptop, the magnetic connection is broken. Instantly, the app locks your computer.

Right now, BusKill will only lock your Windows or macOS laptop. Linux users have more choices for the kill switch, since they can configure the app to trigger a self-destruct command. That option scrambles the computer’s cryptographic keys, making the data inaccessible within seconds.

The project’s founder, Michael Altfield, notes that he wanted the cable “accessible to journalists who don’t necessarily use Linux and don’t know how to use the CLI [command line interface]”.

Even if you aren’t handling sensitive data, you can get your own BusKill kit. It’s available starting at less than $60, either through crowdsupply or directly from BusKill using cryptocurrency.

Tags:  security, Laptops