Student Fried £45,000 Worth of Computers Using 'USB Killer' Device

By Jennings Brown on at

A 27-year-old former student pleaded guilty last week to sticking a “USB killer” device into 66 computers at the College of Saint Rose in the US state of New York.

On 14 February, Vishwanath Akuthota went on a technological rampage, destroying 59 Windows computers and seven Apple computers, and several digital podiums and monitors—all of which had USB slots in which Akuthota inserted a “USB killer” he bought on the internet.

According to court documents obtained by ZDNet, Akuthota recorded himself destroying the computers on his iPhone. “I’m going to kill this guy,” Akuthota said as he stuck the device into USB slots. “It’s gone. Boom... It’s dead.”

The “USB killer” works by drawing power from the USB port to quickly charge a capacitor, then discharging that power into the USB interface, frying important components. The devices can easily be purchased online, but they’re often advertised as tools meant for testing surge protection.

The College of Saint Rose spent $51,009 (£39,423) replacing the computers, and $7,362 (£5,690) on maintenance and investigation costs.

Akuthota, an Indian citizen in the country on a student visa, graduated from the College of Saint Rose with an MBA in 2017. The incident took place almost two years later, he was subsequently arrested in the state of North Carolina eight days after the computer raid. When he is sentenced in August, he faces a fine of $250,000 (£193,000) and up to ten years in prison. [ZDNet, US Department of Justice]

Featured image: College of Saint Rose