Weaponized USB Stick – Destroy Them All!
Researchers have developed new technology that can prevent stolen electronics from getting into the wrong hands by destroying the device.
You just buy a weaponized USB stick with built-in mechanism and this self-destruct gadget will destroy anything in its path, saving all any customer who would need data protection (banks, corporations, collectors who handle massive data, hedge funds, intelligence communities and so on).
The device was developed by researchers at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (or KAUST for short) in Saudi Arabia, who swear it would provide an extra layer of defense against thieves. This technology works quickly, and can be installed on most modern devices.
Here’s how the protection works: The self-destruct mechanism consists of an expandable polymer, which crumples the device’s chips within a few seconds. When the mechanism is remotely triggered, heater electrodes that draw power from the device’s battery activates the polymer, which rapidly expands to seven-times its original size when heated to 176°F or 80 degrees Celsius. The expanding polymer used in the device can destroy a silicon chip up to 90 micrometers thick (just less than 0.1 millimeters).
The researchers from Kaust say that a number of different triggers can be applied to destroy the device, such as a GPS switch that could activate the self-destruct mechanism if a computer is taken outside of a building, for example. Another example would be a password-enabled app that could remotely activate the trigger if the owner doesn’t prevent the mechanism from exploding at any exact time of the owner’s choice. Because the technology can be retrofitted to existing laptops and desktops, that cuts down the manufacturing costs. Each self-destruct mechanism could cost as little as $15.
Another technology consists of an electronic circuit that melts on demand, rendering the devices useless. This technology could be used in mobile phones and credit cards as anti-theft devices. It’s simply : if the device is stolen, the user sends a command to their handset to cause it to self destruct. In this case, the materials are special light-emitting diodes mounted on polymer composite base with the electrical leads embedded inside, which have been designed to quickly melt away when the owner of the stolen device activates the trigger. Just add a drop of water and the base and wiring begin to melt away. Before long the light goes out. A second drop of water degrades what little is left of the system.
The researchers have also developed and tested transient resistors and capacitors which melt in such a manner that there’s no trace of it. The size of the device doesn’t matter, as you can send out a signal that causes a credit card to self-destruct if you lose it.
This method can work not only with the stolen devices. For example, if a medical device which has been introduced in a body, could harmlessly melt away inside once its job is done. A military device could collect and send its data and then dissolve away, leaving no trace of an intelligence mission.
Note that passwords are not much help, as people who want to get access to your computer can use a guest account (unless you disabled it), remove the hard drive and install it on another PC, boot your computer with a different operating system or just keep trying until the password is broken. Different “find me” systems are not secure either, they won’t stop the thief from doing a factory reset then selling your laptop,
Of course, you can use encryption, such as the old TrueCrypt, VeraCrypt, DiskCryptor, etc, but even a fully encrypted laptop can be hacked using, for example, the “evil maid” attack. You can also use biometrics and two-factor authentication (2FA) to increase security, such as fingerprint sensors or face- or iris-recognition programs. These authentications are becoming increasingly popular… but what can be more secure to avert the worst than the self-destruction by a small explosion or by melting, if your beloved device gets in the hands of your worst enemy, though this way may be the least desired outcome from your point of view.
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