back to article Idiot admits destroying scores of college PCs using USB Killer gizmo, filming himself doing it

A former student at a $32,000-a-year private New York college pleaded guilty this week to destroying 66 computers on its campus. Overseas student Vishwanath Akuthota, 27, graduated from The College of Saint Rose in Albany with an MBA in 2017, but for reasons still unknown returned to its campus in February 2019 armed with a " …

  1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Let the victim-blaming begin

    If I know the El Reg commentards, someone is about to weigh in with, "And that's why I seal all my USB ports with superglue, attach internal surge suppressors, and keep all my electronics sealed in a subterranean vault so that this sort of thing never happens. Clearly, the college got what they deserved for being so trusting!"

    </snark>

    1. C Yates

      Re: Let the victim-blaming begin

      Do you need a hug? :)

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Let the victim-blaming begin

      Your prophesy has come true. Amazing talent there. Can you tell me the numbers for next week lottery numbers? It would be a big help.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Let the victim-blaming begin

        It's going to be a series of numbers between 1 and 9. There might be a 5 in there, but it's a bit fuzzy

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Let the victim-blaming begin

      I just install Norton "Internet Security" on computers. That makes them completely unusable but does it perfectly legally.

      1. Scroticus Canis
        Trollface

        Re: "just install Norton "Internet Security" on computers ... makes them completely unusable"

        What have you got against Windows 10 update doing it for you?

    4. livin' thing
      Thumb Up

      Re: Let the victim-blaming begin

      And that's why I seal all my USB ports with superglue, attach internal surge suppressors, and keep all my electronics sealed in a subterranean vault so that this sort of thing never happens. Clearly, the college got what they deserved for being so trusting!

  2. Paul Herber Silver badge

    USB

    U Silly Bugger

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: USB

      In my day we could only do it one at time. Good old floppy disk bomb (open a 3.5" floppy, coat disk in melted matches... Reseal and attempt to read said disk).

      One time use only but generally got rid of finger prints too.

      Only did it the once when decommissioning a much hated win 98 machine I used to own.. Lot of fun though.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: USB

        did that actually work? our miscreants just ised to coating floppies (5.25, 3 and 3.5) with honey or just evostick. A real PITA.

        1. Simon Reed

          Re: USB

          Or red jam. Dozy user used a 5¼" disk as a plate for her jam doughnut. Jam plopped out, she carefully turned the disk so the jam was hidden in the sleeve.

          Funnily enough, the drive would not work after she tried using the disk.

  3. Phil Endecott Silver badge

    It’s an interesting thought-experiment to compare this with the “remote” equivalent of e.g. attacking devices with ransomware, in terms of what we think the police and judicial response should be.

    1. Horridbloke

      Not equivalent

      This isn't equivalent to ransomware. There's no potential gain, no cleverness involved.It's pure vandalism, like putting bricks into a few dozen car windscreens.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Not equivalent

        I agree. What this guy did is pure vandalism. Ransomware is extortion.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Not equivalent

        And at least with car windows some get their own back,

    2. GrapeBunch Bronze badge
      Flame

      On-Off Magic

      "It’s an interesting thought-experiment to compare this with the “remote” equivalent of e.g. attacking devices with ransomware ... "

      Ransomware is not a remote equivalent. A remote equivalent would be: finding a vulnerability in an electric so-called Smart Meter, taking over said Smart Meter, times several millions of them at once, then using the Smart Meter bot-net to destroy equipment. I haven't studied home appliances, but I doubt for example that a fridge is protected against the effects of powering on and off every two seconds for hours. The equipment might "burn out" and that's a good outcome for the victim, as a fire in the same equipment might be more dangerous, as in "burn up your flat block (apartment building)". All started by a kiddie, or a national cyber attack unit, whether for "fun" or as a low-cost adjunct to a military campaign (Herr Hitler had to use expensive bombers and bombs to spread similar destruction on the people of Britain). Or just because "we can".

      If the installation avails more "Smart" features, such as turning the oven on and off, more mischief is possible.

      Before we blame the victims, remember that in many jurisdictions, refusing to use a Smart Meter comes with a $ penalty. In my own jurisdiction, the penalty approximately doubled the electricity bill. But then after a while the analogue meters are no longer legal, regardless of how clean the copper contacts are, they have an expiration date. And factory-new analogue meters are no longer available, in our jurisdiction anyway. Then finally you're stuck with a Smart Meter. Off-grid? Even the extreme measure of going off-grid is illegal in many jurisdictions.

      The solution? Become a board member of an electrical utility, award yourself a big bonus for bogus "savings" occasioned by the use of Smart Meters in an entirely fictitious way in your jurisdiction. Then retire to a mansion in the tropics, where they probably don't enforce the use of Smart Meters.

      So, amongst the epithets (one of which begins with "eej") of the villain of this story could be added "Trailblazer". Sick humour noted.

  4. Zack Mollusc

    Clearly, the college got what they deserved for being so trusting!

    I seal all my USB ports with superglue, attach internal surge suppressors, and keep all my electronics sealed in a subterranean vault so that this sort of thing never happens.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Clearly,the college got what they deserved for being so trusting.

      (It's the old programming OCD of having to complete things.)

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge

        (It's the old programming OCD of having to complete things.);

        1. Lith

          /*

          This code explains that it's the old programming

          OCD of having to complete things.

          */

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            REM stop this sillyness right now!

            1. MrDamage

              ECHO

              Make me.

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: ECHO

                AT>

                1. Crisp Silver badge

                  Re: ECHO

                  # AC is right.

                  #

                  # This is all getting rather silly.

                  1. Simon Reed

                    Re: ECHO

                    GO TO Zack.

              2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
                Stop

                Re: ECHO

                >> "Make me."

                make: *** No rule to make target `Me.'. Stop.

    2. the Jim bloke Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Clearly, the college got what they deserved for being so trusting!

      Clearly, the college got what they deserved for being so trusting! offering an MBA course.

      FTFY

      Honestly, is there ANY redeeming value to an MBA ?

  5. Bill Gray

    Silly "victims"!

    And _this_ is why I disconnect all USB ports internally and then hook them up to oversize capacitors charged to high voltage. Anybody plugging in a USB Killer gets their Killer killed. You just can't be too careful these days...

    1. Blofeld's Cat
      Coat

      Re: Silly "victims"!

      <yorkshire-accent>

      [Shakes head] Call that security?

      We have our USB ports forged from solid copper by the local blacksmith, and connected to a network of Tesla coils fed by lightning rods and electric eels.

      Kills the USB killer and reduces the perpetrator to a pair of smoking boots.

      </yorkshire-accent>

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Silly "victims"!

        [Shakes head] Call that a Yorkshire accent?

        Wi've yar USB ports forged fro' solid copper bi t' local blacksmith, and connected to a network o' Tesla coils fed bi lightning rods an' electric eels.

        That's a bit more like it.

        1. daflibble

          Re: Silly "victims"!

          Far too much effort, why issue computers when users are so much more productive with an Etch A Sketch and no vulnerable USB ports to plug into. Just think of the IT hardware budget saving too.

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Silly "victims"!

          Ah reckon nowt ter that Yorkshire accent, tha’ knows.

          It’s like Blackpool bloody illuminations there soft lad. Near as makes n’ matter t' USB computer bits forged fro' solid copper bi t' local smith who wer ne'er too too cack-‘anded, mind. Wir connected oop t' Tesla coils and sum electric eels an' took me cap down snicket!

          Proper champion, that, lad.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Silly "victims"!

            Snicket?

            A'n't yer heerd o' ginnels?

            1. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

              Re: Silly "victims"!

              Gentlemen! Please take your war outside. This is not a rose garden.

              1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                Re: Silly "victims"!

                This is not a rose garden.

                Well, I've never promised you one!

          2. Gary Bickford

            Re: Silly "victims"!

            Now we need the rhyming talk version.

        3. The Onymous Coward

          Re: Silly "victims"!

          Almost there - it's "leetnin".

      2. ratfox Silver badge

        Re: Silly "victims"!

        Do you keep them in a hovercraft?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Silly "victims"!

          Better keep them topped up, wouldn't want to be caught short

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Silly "victims"!

      Too much work. Explosive charge with a micro-switch. USB trips the micro and "BOOM".

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Silly "victims"!

      Silly 'victims', USB-killer-sticks are for SCRIPT KIDDIES! (it's a reference to a US-ian breakfast cereal commercial, yeah, featuring multi-colored sugar balls and a cartoon rabbit)

      and an 80's song re-written for the occasion:

      Like a Script-kiddie

      hacking for the very first time!

      Like a Script-ki-i-i-dee

      (I'll get my own coat)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surprisingly honest

    "The college calculates that he caused $51,109 in damages, and it cost it $7,362 to investigate and repair what it could."

    That cost sounds justifiable - I thought the standard for this type of crime was to also include the millions of hours of lost productivity in addition to any time and materials spent on the actual issue.

    1. I3N
      Pint

      Re: Surprisingly honest

      "[A]lso include the millions of hours of lost productivity ..."

      At an University ... lost productivity?

      Has to be a video somewhere of this guy with Yujing Zhang.

      Secret Service agent plugs USB stick into computer and realizes something wrong, maybe, because of smoke!

      Idiots abound.

      1. I3N
        Angel

        Re: Surprisingly honest

        Haha ... downvotes from the university crypto miners and the cryptojackers ...

        https://cointelegraph.com/news/report-stealth-crypto-mining-much-more-prevalent-in-higher-ed-than-other-industries

    2. Nunyabiznes

      Re: Surprisingly honest

      Honestly sounds a little low. If he destroyed 66 computers I would think replacement costs including staff time would be quite a bit more than that. I guess that is what the student interns are for.

      Anybody want to do a little comparative vandalism to some .gov computers and let us know what their numbers add up to?

      1. midcapwarrior

        Re: Surprisingly honest

        My guess is that the class of crime has a max fine

        1. Nunyabiznes

          Re: Surprisingly honest

          Their estimate of damages is separate from what the court can/will impose as a fine for breaking the law. Usually in cases like this the perp is given two separate judgements - one for payback of damages and one for court costs and fines. The Judge will generally fact check the compensation claim from the victim and pass it along to the perp.

          But, like the banner above a civil attorney's office locally says: Winning is one thing - collecting is another.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surprisingly honest

        think they would send YOU a check....

      3. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

        Re: Surprisingly honest

        A .edu computer might be $800. The .mil equivalent, beeeeeeeellions, hardened beellions.

        But yeah, I agree. They lowballed the damages, bless 'em.

        1. I3N
          Coat

          Ponder needs to remind Mustrum that the U has already depreciated the hell out of them ...

          See and seen pallets of used .edu computers ... a little over 30 per lot ... auction out typically as $300 - $600 and as much as $1900 (new stuff falling out of service contract?) ...

          The memory @ about $400 per bin ...

          Hard drives maybe $0.05/# ... shredded

      4. Gary Bickford

        Re: Surprisingly honest

        Work study staff works cheap?

      5. Smody

        Re: Surprisingly honest

        I'd give you an upvote, but here in the U.S. that would constitute conspiracy, and would net me a sentence of life imprisonment. Probably in solitary.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Surprisingly honest

      "The college calculates that he caused $51,109 in damages, and it cost it $7,362 to investigate and repair what it could."

      How much of that was accountancy overhead to calculate the cost to 5 figures?

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    What a fucking idiot

    Let me see, what was his thought process in all that :

    1) I'm going to intentionally destroy a bunch of university campus computers - yeah, that will demonstrate my l33t h4xxor skillz against the softest target in the universe

    2) I'm going to go in without a hoodie, just to make sure cameras can catch me in the act

    3) on top of that, I'm going to record myself. For what ? To post on YouTube of course, what could possibly go wrong ?

    4) once I'm done with my Evil Genius scheme, I'm going to retire to a moderately remote location and absolutely not get rid of any incriminating evidence whatsoever. What for ?

    I admit : I'm a racist. I hate stupid morons. And this guy hits all the qualifiers.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: What a fucking idiot

      Morons are not a race. They are not even a religion.

      At least, unlike a certain Japanese general of WW2, he didn't go to university in the US, experience US racism, and be so angered by it that he went home to Japan and started encouraging preparations for WW2.

      Not that I'm saying this guy experienced American racism; it sounds like he has something wrong in his head. And he has an MBA. But I repeat myself.

      1. Fazal Majid

        Re: What a fucking idiot

        If you are referring to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, he did in fact advocate against declaring war on the United States, because he was well aware of the US' industrial might and the impossible odds of winning, but he was overruled, on the basis that the superior Japanese warrior spirit would prevail.

        That said, even his bosses were aware at a certain level that winning against the US was impossible, but a surefire defeat was less dishonorable than the alternative of surrendering when Japan's oil supplied dried out due to the US embargo, as described in this official US miltary history of the road to Pearl Harbor:

        http://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pdffiles/PUB905.pdf

        1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: What a fucking idiot

          Actually no, I have forgotten the name of the officer concerned but I don't mean Yamamoto. He went to (civilised) Harvard. The person I am thinking of went to a mid-Western university which was culturally very different.

          As a side note, I regard official military histories as extremely unreliable. It is much better to rely on independent historians who have been given access to actual source material. This isn't the place to go into detail, but your posts suggests that the official history assumes the Japanese were thinking as if they were Americans. They were not. Edwin Hoyt is good on the way that the nationalists got control of the education system and basically exercised a degree of control over people's thinking that would have impressed Goebbels.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What a fucking idiot

            Much like America over the past 40 years and Canada is not far behind, I fear. What passes for education in the province of New Brunswick is not what it once was. I looked into a well regarded, local, private school, not that I could afford to send my children there, to check out their syllabus and it was very similar to what I did 40 years ago in the public education system. Not that I had access to tutors every evening like students at the private school.

      2. wayne 8

        Re: What a fucking idiot

        That Japanese officer never experienced Japanese racism. The Chinese and Koreans had.

        Doubtful that one officer's desire to be a social justice warrior was a primary cause of that conflict.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: What a fucking idiot

          revisionist history, because someone said it, must be true. who'd a thunk it?

      3. wayne 8

        Re: sub par MBA

        He has a MBA from a $32K per year, upstate NY college cum "university".

        Probably was triggered when he discovered that no major consulting firm would hire anyone from that MBA program.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: sub par MBA

          He has a MBA from a $32K per year, upstate NY college cum "university".

          MBA - Master of Bugger All.

      4. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: What a fucking idiot

        it sounds like he has something wrong in his head

        He tried the Universal Stupid Brain zapper on himself first.

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: What a fucking idiot

      A fucking idiot?

      Yes, most likely. But a raging fucking idiot, that is. He probably found that his expensive MBA wasn't worth quite what he had expected. Had he learnt something useful during his studies he would have known other -better- means of revenge than this pathetic act of vandalism.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What a fucking idiot

        "a raging fucking idiot"

        Yes, key word "raging". The muttering to himself during the act is clearly a sign of some mental disorder. Wouldn't be surprised if he claimed the voices in his head told him to do so.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: What a fucking idiot

        Had he learnt something useful during his studies he would have known other -better- means of revenge than this pathetic act of vandalism.

        Get a job in the college with his MBA, put into practice MBA type stuff, destroy it without any damage to property, then move on to the next place?

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: What a fucking idiot

          Ummm - the only problem that MBA morons frequently do destroy property

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: What a fucking idiot

            Ummm - the only problem that MBA morons frequently do destroy property

            s@property@shareholder value and/or jobs@

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: What a fucking idiot

              s@property@shareholder value and/or jobs@

              Property too. Cutting safety measures and reducing (or eliminating) resilience because they're "not cost-effective" tends to do that.

    3. n10cities

      Re: What a fucking idiot

      He graduated with an MBA (i.e. future PHB), so I doubt he had any leet hacking skillz.

      Looks more like a personal grudge against the school (maybe he didn't get that awesome 7 figure job coming right out of school he was promised and had to settle for burger flipping at the local MickyDs?)

    4. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: What a fucking idiot

      "I admit : I'm a racist. I hate stupid morons"

      The pedant in me has to point out that this isn't racism, it's bigotry -- and bigotry I tend to share! Although I have a shade of gray here. I distinguish between people who are unable to think (that's a medical condition and is forgivable), and people who are perfectly capable of thinking but refuse to do it (that's unforgivable, and I suspect that this doofus falls into this category).

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: What a fucking idiot

        " and people who are perfectly capable of thinking but refuse to do it "

        At last, a definition for those who voluntarily opt to study for an MBA.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: What a fucking idiot

          Well, he fills the requirement for an MBA. When he gets out of jail, he'll find his magic well-paying job.

      2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: What a fucking idiot

        Well dear idiot will likely have a felony conviction when this is done. While not a total black mark, it will make getting a decent job much harder as a convicted felon.

        1. A.P. Veening

          Re: What a fucking idiot

          His conviction as a felon won't be noticed back home after his eviction (PNG).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What a fucking idiot

            I'm not so sure about that. A Google search for his name surfaces nothing positive on the magic first 2 pages and numerous results for this matter, including coverage in the Indian mainstream press.

        2. Mike Moyle Silver badge

          Re: What a fucking idiot

          "Well dear idiot will likely have a felony conviction when this is done. While not a total black mark, it will make getting a decent job much harder as a convicted felon."

          Well, there's always "Republican Congressman"; felony convictions don't seem to be much of an impediment there.

          Oh, wait... You said "a decent job"...

          Never mind. Yeah; he's screwed.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What a fucking idiot

          not if current Presidential trends continue. He might be considered a perfect selection and if he's of a brown hue that his hiring might even "prove" Trump's not a racist! hahaha...just kidding, Trump's a racist.

        4. usbac

          Re: What a fucking idiot

          Let's see... An MBA, no moral fiber, and a criminal record, that definitely makes him qualified for any area of politics.

        5. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: What a fucking idiot

          No company using computers with USB ports will hire him, obviously.

        6. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

          Re: What a fucking idiot

          "Well dear idiot will likely have a felony conviction when this is done. While not a total black mark, it will make getting a decent job much harder as a convicted felon."

          Not in Canada, my dear. Not in Canada.

          https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ex-harper-adviser-disclosed-entire-criminal-record-to-pmo-lawyer/article4263647/

          Just think, if Japan had said to Canada:

          "Sushi?"

          "What's that?"

          "Try some."

          "OMFG. Oil?"

          "How's that?"

          "Alberta"

          the world could have avoided tens of millions of dead. And we'd all be bi-lingual or tri-lingual.

  8. adnim Silver badge
    WTF?

    People are strange and as a stranger I would like to say...

    Some kill computers for fun, perhaps a sense of achievement. Others kill people because they are gay, black, white or don't do the right god.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: People are strange and as a stranger I would like to say...

      "perhaps a sense of achievement."

      But there is literally no achievement here beyond knowing how to buy something online. I think even script kiddies have a greater claim to achievement than this guy.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: People are strange and as a stranger I would like to say...

        it would've been funnier if he'd used a permanent ink marker and drawn moustaches

      2. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

        Re: People are strange and as a stranger I would like to say...

        "But there is literally no achievement here beyond knowing how to buy something online. I think even script kiddies have a greater claim to achievement than this guy."

        You omit the other part of the equation: MBA. The MBA taught him that there is value in no achievement, no skills, no moral compass.

        Thus ends the stately waltz.

  9. oldtaku
    Trollface

    Talk about efficiency

    This guy has radically streamlined the usual outcome of Indian outsourcing. Though only $60K wasted is a tad low.

  10. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Couldn't it have been kept nice and quiet and end up with him having his USB do hi my returned, so long as he got a job at Faecebook. They kinds deserve each other

  11. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Quantum superposition of usb orientations

    Just think how much damage he could have done if it hadn’t taken 5 minutes of fumbling about just to get the usb stick in the right way round

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quantum superposition of usb orientations

      As a friend asked me recently... Why is it that despite only having two sides, it takes me 3 attempts to get my USB in the right way around....

      Because you're a moron, I replied, despite having achieved this myself.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Quantum superposition of usb orientations

        Because we live in a four dimensional universe

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Quantum superposition of usb orientations

        Why is it that despite only having two sides, it takes me 3 attempts to get my USB in the right way around

        Because the idea originated with HP Lovecraft.

      3. HypG

        Re: Quantum superposition of usb orientations

        Its almost like Schrodinger's USB, except that it will only be plug-able after you have observed the connector

        1. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

          Re: Quantum superposition of usb orientations

          If you could only see me now, catatonic with laughter. Hear the Bell.

      4. whitepines Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Quantum superposition of usb orientations

        As a friend asked me recently... Why is it that despite only having two sides, it takes me 3 attempts to get my USB in the right way around....

        After having asked myself the same question a while back, here's what I found:

        Sequence:

        1.) Try to plug drive in without looking at connector. Drive is correct way, but it's at a 5 degree angle or so from the working orientation. Drive will not go in, human assumes drive is backward

        2.) Human retries attempt with drive oriented 180 degrees, maybe after feeling around for connector this time. Drive does not go in

        3.) Human observes drive and connector -- this recalibrates the human's 3D spatial maneuvering systems unconsciously. Drive finally goes in nice and easy since it's not at a ~5 degree angle to the port this time around.

        Simple!

      5. TomPhan

        Re: Quantum superposition of usb orientations

        If only there was some sort of sign on them...

  12. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    On the one hand he displays the sort of thinking we expect from MBAs. On the other he has managed to do the MBA of a Darwin award by getting himself removed from the employment* market pro tem and maybe for good if even other MBAs realise he's not going to be a team player.

    * OK, 'employment' might not be the best way of describing the situation where MBAs turn up at an office and et paid for it but there aren't too many alternative words.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      'employment' might not be the best way of describing the situation where MBAs turn up at an office and et paid for it but there aren't too many alternative words

      Then maybe we need a word or a short phrase.... future politician?

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        That requires an Oxford PPE in the UK - MBAs - so lower class.

        1. davenewman

          No, now you need a Masters in Public Policy from the Blavatnik School of Government.

  13. John Savard Silver badge

    Don't Blame the Victim, But

    No, the victim is not at fault. However, since devices such as that do exist, we _should_ expect motherboard makers to design their motherboards so that they are completely impregnable to this sort of attack. While they're at it, they might also do something about the more subtle attacks from USB sticks that allow malware infections.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

      > so that they are completely impregnable to this sort of attack

      Yes, but that would cost more. Fortunately there is a much simpler and cheaper solution, which is to remove all USB ports altogether... And no, that's unfortunately not a joke, certain hardware builders are clearly going in that direction.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

        This is America, the stand way to destroy a computer is an amour piercing round. Very few usb ports are bullet proof (only original Thinkpads)

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

          Now we can discuss the relative merits of a 9mm, 45ACP, 30-06, 303, etc for taking out computers. Could be interesting. Reminds of an email chain I saw about the good ways to destroy a hard drive, several over here suggested using it for target practice. lol

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

            Take off and Nuke the drive from orbit, it's the only way to be sure

          2. A.P. Veening

            Re: Target practice

            I've seen the results of destroying hard drives by using them for target practice. Those were destroyed. It was done by a colleague, who also served in the military reserve as sniper. It was a win for all around, the company saved some money on destruction and the colleague had some nice, alternative targets for practice.

            1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: Target practice

              You are relying on his marksmanship - an organisation I worked with favoured dismantling and the application of a welding torch. Perhaps opther parts of the British establishment should learn from this example?

              1. JohnFen Silver badge

                Re: Target practice

                A company I worked for used a log splitter to destroy most hard drives. That didn't meet US government standards for hard drive destruction, though, so a subset had to be sent off to specialists to do the job.

              2. Stoneshop Silver badge
                Flame

                Re: Target practice

                an organisation I worked with favoured dismantling and the application of a welding torch.

                For a set of systems used by the Dutch military I had to disassemble the RA81 HDAs (70-18491-01) I had to replace and leave the platters onsite; the shell had to go back to satisfy the logistical process cycle.

                At some point they had a pile half a meter high in the corner of the computer room, and I inquired how they were going to deal with that. "There's a pit in a corner of the compound, those platters and a bunch of thermite make a nice fireworks display, and out comes this.", and he showed me a blob of melted aluminium (that had clearly been cut or chopped off a larger blob).

          3. John 110

            Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

            "Reminds of an email chain I saw "

            Sorry, I read that as "email chainsaw" - snort

            Carry on.

          4. Totally not a Cylon
            Mushroom

            Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

            All too small, you really need a .50 BMG Raufoss to do the job properly.

            High explosive, armor piecing, incendiary!

            Overkill? what's that?

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

              Overkill? what's that?

              It's listed next to "US Military tactics" in the dictionary.

              (Mind you, that's not always a bad thing - until the damage spills out onto non-involved parties. War, after all, isn't designed to be fair)

              1. Corp-Rat

                Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

                Maxim 37: 37. There is no overkill. There is only "open fire" and " I need to reload"

          5. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

            A story I heard from one of my former colleagues: one of his colleagues (in the US) is working on some untraceable and intermittent problem. Has been going at it for several days already, and there's a software support guy working on it too. The usual back-and-forth ensues: "It's hardware because $symptom". "No, it's software because $other_symptom". "It's hardware!" "Software!" "Hardware!" "Software". Software tech pulls a handgun from his briefcase, puts a bullet into the system. "Now it IS hardware", walks out, never to be seen again.

        2. John 110

          Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

          "... an amour piercing round..."

          Is that Cupid's arrow? or have I got the wrong end of the stick?

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

      However, since devices such as that do exist, we _should_ expect motherboard makers to design their motherboards so that they are completely impregnable to this sort of attack.

      Right, so they should also design motherboards to be invulnerable to thermic lances and nuclear strikes, because thermic lances and nukes exist as well.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

        invulnerable to thermic lances and nuclear strikes

        And, once that's done, double it up to protect it from the British Standard Idiot.

    3. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

      If these devices are sold as 'surge testers', wouldn't you expect the 'surge' protection on a USB port to withstand them ?

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Don't Blame the Victim, But

      "While they're at it, they might also do something about the more subtle attacks from USB sticks that allow malware infections."

      And that would be? IF the USB does something at the hardware level like trying to fry the board, there are hardware solutions to that problem (although they aren't perfect and don't result in "completely impregnable"). If it does something at the software level, the OS has to respond to any threats. The problem is that the software-based USB threats aren't by their nature detectable as unusual. They represent themselves as various types of USB device, including input, storage, and network. But you can't eliminate any of those capabilities because people use legitimate versions of all of the above. You also can't prevent multiple devices from being connected to one port (which wouldn't even work to protect against most exploits but has been suggested before) because people use USB hubs and some devices have good reasons for showing themselves as multiple classes of device.

  14. earl grey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Morons are not a race

    Oh hella yes they are. A race to the bottom.

  15. chivo243 Silver badge
    Holmes

    This guy is a product

    Of too much internet. An Asian MBA grad acting like a thug?

  16. Tom 7 Silver badge

    He'll cause a lot more damage if he ever uses his degree.

    NT

  17. A.P. Veening

    Correct punishment

    The correct punishment in this case would be paying all damages and related costs, court costs and a nice stamp (PNG) in his passport upon eviction (no need to pollute the prison environment with this rubbish).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Correct punishment

      PNG stamps are easy to get rid of out of a passport once you return home. You can report your passport as lost ("I had it at the airport but now I can't find it") or pour coffee all over it and return it to the issuing authority as accidentally defaced and get a new one issued.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The more discerning luddite ...

    Will use a hammer ... no fancy la-de-da electrickery shenanigans here!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm glad that the school is being fully reimbursed, but that should not be a mitigating factor to any legal sentence, because that then sets up a dual judicial system. One for the patricians and one for us plebeians. Reimbursement should be automatic, on ability to pay. If you're rich you pay what you can, maybe all of it, if you're poor you pay what you can, maybe none of it. The sentencing should be aside from that.

    I know, I'm a dreamer.

  20. Jolyon Ralph

    I bet

    I bet he still had to try plugging it in three times before he inserted it the right way round.

  21. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Plea deal?

    "Akuthota reached a plea deal [PDF] with the authorities that would see him admit his guilt and pay the college its full $58,471 damage estimate in return for more lenient sentencing."

    Why the plea deal? It's an open and shut case. Even a "full trial" should take at most a day while the defence tries to put over some half-arsed mitigations against the criminals own video evidence.

    1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: Plea deal?

      Having served on a couple of juries, I vote for the plea deal. A jury trial required an an hour or two for about 40 persons to go through the voir dire, then a day or two for the dozen selected and the alternate, then some time for the remaining dozen. And this doesn't count the time spent by witnesses, cops, and lawyers.

  22. kend1
    FAIL

    Who is this guy?

    https://www.facebook.com/saintrosegrad/posts/qa-with-a-ga-vishwanath-akuthota-what-department-are-you-working-for-and-who-are/10154835183318203/

  23. Rainer

    Is he dumb?

    Or was he on some drug?

    I really have to question the sanity of someone doing something like this

  24. MrReal Bronze badge

    People shouldn't take the "Terminator" movies so literally like this guy did.

  25. goldcd

    *IF* these devices had decent replaceable or resettable fuses

    then this would have been less of a story.

    I know I'm going off on a tangent, but when you look at what you can put through a USB C socket now, and the stories of shonky cables etc etc - you'd kinda-hope that your best solution wouldn't be to get a soldering iron out, and the worst would be a logic board replacement.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: *IF* these devices had decent replaceable or resettable fuses

      Wouldn't work. Fuses protect against over-current conditions, like damaged cables. The USB Killer is an over-voltage surge. Fuses wouldn't do anything. Even if they could, their reaction time is on the order of hundreds of milliseconds - far too slow.

      What you want to protect against this is a fast-response clamping diode. Transient suppression. Perfectly doable, but it'd raise costs, so it's not going to be something commonly found in consumer PCs. You might find it on PCs designed for industrial use, where harsh electrical conditions are more of a concern.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: *IF* these devices had decent replaceable or resettable fuses

        Transient suppression. Perfectly doable

        Up to a point. TVS devices are rated for some amount of energy; exceed that and THEY blow up (plus the hardware it's supposed to protect). So whatever your TVS rating is, there'll always be a zapper that can put more energy into the protection circuitry than what it can handle. Although in the case of an USB killer you'll then be seeing devices that have to be a good bit larger than the average thumbdrive, so maybe the unwary finder of one of those wouldn't put one into their PC rightaway.

        Maybe.

        1. ChrisC

          Re: *IF* these devices had decent replaceable or resettable fuses

          Yep, so you them combine the fast acting TVS with a slower acting device (e.g. GDT) capable of dealing with the higher voltages that would kill the TVS on its own. More layers of protection to deal with different parts of the threat until you get to the point where you've addressed anything that could reasonably be expected to be thrown at the port.

      2. ChrisC

        Re: *IF* these devices had decent replaceable or resettable fuses

        The other problem with transient suppression is that, in addition to the increased cost and PCB space, you also have to worry about the loading effects on the data lines being protected. For low speed data it's not an issue, but getting effective protection for high speed lines such as on modern USB ports takes more care and more cost.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: *IF* these devices had decent replaceable or resettable fuses

        Fuses protect against over-current conditions

        Hang on - I thought the rule was "the equipment dies to protect the fuse"? At least, that's been my experience..

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obviously not correctly schooled in BOFH activity!

    The proper BOFH person would just leave one of these lying around waiting to be picked up and "used". Maybe plant it on the boss's desk somewhere, or near accounting.

    Just saying!

    One must figure out how to get others to blame!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obviously not correctly schooled in BOFH activity!

      Put a piece of labelmaker tape on it that says "PRIVATE" and drop it somewhere it will be found. Most people won't be able to resist the urge to have a pry into someone's personal stuff or porn stash. This is likely to give less impact though as it's unlikely the finder will try it in more than one or two machines before concluding it doesn't work.

  27. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Coat

    But how would it fare..

    ..against a Lighting connector?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the real Big bang theory

    Something that would make me watch the malcontents sitting round eating takeaways and playing computer games.

  29. Adam Foxton

    No imagination

    If he'd have been properly invested in this but of prickishness he'd have handed the FBI the USB Killer and told them "yes, there's a video of me doing it on this stick..."

    *bang*

    "Ah, no, it's on my phone."

    All this punishment could almost be worth it if you had persuaded the FBI to zap their own machines...

  30. ChrisC

    Is it *really* a testing device though?

    Whilst this USB killer may well have been certified as a testing device, it strikes me as a little too convenient that a deliberate decision was made to design it to look just like a normal USB stick and therefore make it also useful as a covert means to damage equipment...

  31. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Happy

    graduated from The College of Saint Rose in Albany with an MBA in 2017

    After the machine was fried, he was heard to say on his own recordings,

    This only proves, once again, that a person with an MBA doesn't doesn't equate to intelligence.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What do you expect from an MBA?

    He sure adminstered the f#%& out of their bidness. Masterful it was.

  33. Glenn 6

    Once his probably short prison stint is done, I'm sure he'll be returning "overseas", and use his MBA to start up his very own IRS scammer call center.

  34. TomPhan

    Just leave them by PCs

    Just leaving a few of these devices near some PCs would have achieved the same result, though more expensive, and probably less satisfying.

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