The USB port is one of the most influential and important inventions of the modern computing era, but like just about anything that's innovative and pervasive, there's usually potential to do harm as well. Need proof of that? Check out the USB Kill, a sly little USB stick that's capable of frying just about any consumer or commercial device with a USB port in a matter of seconds.
There's no complex coding required or anything of that nature—you just plug the USB Kill into a USB port and moments later, ZAP!, the system is dead. The latest version of this device, USB Kill 2.0, purports to do this by rapidly collecting power from the USB power lines (5V, 1A to 3A) and then discharging over 200 volts of DC power to the host device. The process happens multiple times per second until either the host machine is destroyed or unplugged. It's simple and frighteningly effective.
"In our tests, over 95 percent of devices are affected by a USB power surge attack. Almost all consumer-level hardware fails when tested against the USB Kill. The most frequent outcome is the complete destruction of the device (laptops, tv, telephones, etc). Almost all consumer-level hardware fails when tested against the USB Kill," the developers of the USB Kill say.
The makers of this thing pitch it as an essential testing tool against surge attack, particularly for hardware designers of public machines such as photo booths, copy machines, airline entertainment machines, and so forth. However, the company that makes USB Kill will sell the stick to anyone, noting that users are responsible for their own acts.
"A hammer used maliciously can permanently damage to [sic] a third party's device. The USB Killer, used maliciously, can permanently damage a third party's device," the company states in its FAQ.
For curious folk who want to test their gadgets with a USB Kill stick, the company also sells a USB Shield. The USB Killer plugs into the Shield, which is then plugged into a USB device.
The USB Kill is currently backordered with stock in the process of being replenished. Perhaps the only thing scarier than the deadly nature of this testing tool is its affordable price tag—it sells for around 50 euros (about $56 in U.S. currency). The Shield goes for 15 euros, though it can be had for a 50 percent discount if bundled with the USB Kill.