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Beware of the Unknown USB Stick

  • By: Garry Feldman
  • Date: April 5, 2017

Many businesses are aware of the risks posed by unknown USB sticks that have been loaded with malware. Unfortunately, there is a newer threat that can cause even more damage to your system: USB kills sticks. A USB stick that can send a high-power charge into any device with a USB port, kill sticks are a major threat to anything from a PC to an automobile.

Recently, a Hong Kong company has produced an even more dangerous version of this nasty device that should cause both businesses and consumers serious concern. Learn more about the risks of unknown USB kill sticks and how you can defend your devices.

The Nuts and Bolts of USB Kill Stick

The USB kill stick works on a simple principle. When a kill stick is plugged into USB port, it uses the power available to charge its internal capacitors. Next, the stored power is discharged back into the USB slot, causing a power surge that fries the electronics inside of the machine.

In the past, almost every device with a standard USB port was at risk for kill stick damage. The one exception was Apple hardware. However, the newest version of the kill stick has its sights set on smaller, more popular devices.

Watch out Tablets and iPhones

The newest version of USB kill stick is an even more pernicious threat than its predecessors. Where older version would only work with standard USB ports, the newest kill stick is designed to work with microUSB, USB-C and Lightning ports. It is also 12 times faster than older versions.

This means that the newest kill sticks can destroy devices like iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, as well as digital cameras and Kindles.

Although the Hong Kong company that produces this kill stick markets it as a way to “test equipment for surge protection”, the fact that the company sells it in an unbranded, unmarked black USB memory stick style case speaks volumes to its intended purpose.

What to Do about USB Kill Sticks

There are many ways that businesses can mitigate the threat that these kill sticks pose. First, having an educated working staff is critical. You must ensure your employees understand the intent of these devices and how to identify them. It is also possible to disable the USB ports on your company’s computers. However, this is not feasible for tablets, as it would disable their only power source.  

All staff should be wary of using any USB stick that they do not own or has an unknown origin. USB kill sticks are not only a threat to the data on your devices, they are a threat to the devices themselves. USB sticks that are found unattended, lying around in parking lots or left in lobby waiting rooms should immediately be turned into the IT department for analysis. While it may be tempting to plug it into a device to see who it belongs to, the risk is too great.

Keep Your Network Safe with IT Security Consulting

Your network should be safe for your business and your customers. That is why partnering with U.S. Computer Connection for your IT Security Consulting needs is a great way to ensure that your business’ data and your hardware are safe from attacks. Contact us today to learn how we can keep your business safe.

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