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USB Killer compilation

A USB Killer is a small device that is designed to use capacitors to accumulate the 5 volts of power provided by a standard USB port, and then return it in 110 or 220 volt bursts until the host device or USB controller is destroyed. Though purported to be legally sold for the purpose of electrical "testing", concerns have been raised over its rogue use by vandals.[1][2]


The first 110 volt "Killer USB" device was created in March 2015 by a Russian security researcher working under the pseudonym "Dark Purple". Tech writers and "engineering experts" originally expressed skepticism about the published findings.[3] However, by October of that year, the same researcher was able to miniaturize "USB Killer version 2.0" to fit in a thumb drive case with the ability to deliver 220 volt bursts, which was confirmed to be able to destroy most USB devices.[1][4]


In 2019, graduate student Vishwanath Akuthota was jailed and fined for damaging or destroying over US$50,000 in computer equipment (including iMacs) at the College of Saint Rose with such a USB Killer stick.[5]

Preventive measures[]

Users are advised to avoid plugging unknown USB devices into computers that they value using. Such an attack was dramatized in the television series Mr. Robot.[6] The makers of USBKill sells their own "USBKill Shield" to the general public.[7] A generic USB hub may provide some protection, but a cheap unpowered one may still allow some damaging current to pass through before itself being destroyed.[8] More useful protection may be provided by USB dongles or hubs with built-in upstream and downstream surge protectors that still allow data to pass through.[9][10]

Similar devices[]

The origin of the USB Killer name has been traced back to "EtherKiller",[1] created by an IT worker and hobbyist who devised a series of cables and adapters that use AC power to destroy various computer ports.[11] The makers of USBKill have also developed "NFCKill" for the purpose of disabling RFID tags, though also relying on a separate power source.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The USB Killer, version 2.0 by Brian Benchoff, Hackaday. 2015-10-10.
  2. USB Killer now lets you fry most Lightning and USB-C devices for $55 by Sebastian Anthony, Ars Technica. 2017-02-17.
  3. The 'USB Killer' Won't Fry Your Computer. Probably. by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, Vice. 2015-03-20.
  4. USB Killer v2.0 — Latest USB Device that Can Easily Burn Your Computer by Swati Khandelwal, The Hacker News. 2015-10-13.
  5. Idiot admits destroying scores of college PCs using USB Killer gizmo, filming himself doing it by Kieren McCarthy, The Register. 2019-04-18.
  6. We're Not Just Fact-Checking Mr. Robot—We're Hack-Checking It by Kim Zetter, Wired. 2016-07-21.
  7. USBKill Shield, USBKill. Accessed 2021-05-25.
  8. Will a USB Killer Kill Through a Hub? ⚡ Are you at risk no matter how a USB Killer connects?can a usb killer damage a computer through a hub? by Ask Leo!, YouTube. 2020-05-03.
  9. USB Surge Protector, Type A / Type A Panel Mount Style with Pigtail Cable - 12", Infinite Electronics International. Accessed 2021-05-25.
  10. 10 Port USB 3.0 Hub - Industrial Grade - ESD/Surge Protection by StarTech, Amazon. 2015-11-21.
  11. The Etherkiller and Friends, Accessed 2021-05-25.
  12. NFCKill, USBKill. Accessed 2021-05-25.

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